In the United States, rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are skyrocketing with approximately 20 million new cases diagnosed every year [1]. Although these infections are common and easily treatable, many minority and marginalized groups are impacted by social determinants of health that act as barriers to quality screening and care. These social conditions cause disparities in healthcare access which influence the health of these underrepresented populations.

Fortunately, at-home testing can increase equitable access to STI testing and treatment at a time when it is desperately needed. LetsGetChecked’s at-home STD Tests can help address screening disparities by increasing the accessibility of quality testing and care. Enhancing access to these vital health services is crucial to facilitating better health outcomes and improving health equity for all.


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The impact of social determinants of health on STI testing


Social determinants of health (SDOH) are the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work, and age, which are linked to a person’s opportunities and resources to protect, improve, and maintain their health. One of the major SDH factors that impact minority and underrepresented groups in healthcare access and quality. Unfortunately, marginalized populations with the highest rates of STIs often experience a lack of access to adequate healthcare services.

Healthcare access and quality of care vary dramatically among populations and is worse in higher-STI-risk areas. Limited resources, poor quality of services, and a lack of accessible screening and treatment through routine health services are all barriers that prevent people from receiving timely diagnosis and treatment, especially for asymptomatic cases. Innovative approaches to expand care outside the traditional clinical setting are needed to reduce the barriers that exacerbate the disparities in testing and care.


Disparities in STI rates and screening access


Disproportional rates of STIs are present among racial and ethnic minority groups, including Blacks, Hispanics, Pacific Islanders, and American Indians due to differential access to quality sexual healthcare. According to one study, the STI rates for Black Americans were 5 to 8 times that of non-Hispanic white people, while STI rates for Latino people were 1 to 2 times that of non-Hispanic white people [2]. These disparate STI rates can be attributed in part to the significant budget cuts to STI prevention campaigns and sexual health clinics which are more likely to serve patients of minority races and ethnicities [3].

The lack of access to screening services and other barriers such as lack of access to information, logistical barriers, limited clinic hours or availability, and a shortage of transportation options can prevent diverse and underrepresented populations from accessing quality sexual healthcare. According to the 2019 National Healthcare Quality and Disparities Report, compared to non-Hispanic Whites, Black Americans had worse access to care for 48% of access measures, Hispanics had worse access to care for 65% of access measures, Pacific Islanders had worse access to care than Whites for 25% of access measures, and American Indians had worse access to care for 55% of access measures [4]. Addressing these disparities in healthcare access is crucial to making lasting progress against the STI epidemic in the United States so everyone has an equal chance to be healthy regardless of their background.


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Increasing access with at-home STI testing


At-home STI testing can help address screening disparities and reduce the burden of these infections on communities that lack access to quality care and treatment. LetsGetChecked’s at-home screening solutions increase access to care by meeting individuals where they are, beyond traditional clinical settings. Moving testing into the home can increase the timeliness of STI detection and treatment, thus lowering the prevalence.

Enabling people to access quality care from the comfort of their homes lowers the barriers to diagnostic testing to reduce disparities, expand sexual health clinic capacity, and reach individuals facing barriers to appropriate care. Together, we can address this public health crisis and achieve equitable access to diagnostic STI testing for all people, particularly those most disproportionately burdened by STIs.


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References


  1. https://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/topics-objectives/topic/sexually-transmitted-diseases
  2. https://www.everydayhealth.com/sexual-health/sexually-transmitted-diseases/
  3. https://www.jstor.org/stable/44969628
  4. https://www.ahrq.gov/sites/default/files/wysiwyg/research/findings/nhqrdr/2019qdr.pdf