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Why Sweden's online chlamydia tests are spreading

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Why Sweden's online chlamydia tests are spreading
A file photo of a lab at Karolinska University Hospital. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT
16:18 CEST+02:00
Sweden has a reputation for pushing technological boundaries to solve problems, and one of the latest successful innovations is using the internet to help test for chlamydia.

The availability of online tests means that more Swedes are getting themselves checked for the sexually transmitted disease than ever before, but it’s not all good news: the infection itself is still on the rise in the country.

First launched at a regional level in 2008, Sweden's discreet chlamydia testing system works by allowing concerned citizens to order a free test package from their computers at the click of a button. A sample specimen is then sent back in the envelope provided, and the results of the analysis can be checked online.

The Swedish Public Health Agency’s latest figures show that the innovation has led to more people testing themselves in the past two years than previously.

In the Stockholm region, orders of the online tests have more than doubled in five years, while in the southern Swedish region of Skåne there has been a 15 percent increase in online testing from young men during the first six months of 2016 compared to the same period of 2015.

“Above all it’s guys who are using this method. On the whole we think the online testing is a good method because it’s so easy,” Skåne University Hospital section manager Åke Svensson told news agency TT.

More than 570,000 chlamydia tests were carried out in Sweden in 2015, yet the growth in testing hasn’t stopped the spread of the disease. Last year, the number of reported infections increased by four percent compared to 2014, and the Public Health Agency warns that their tests are not always reaching the right demographic groups.

“One explanation can be that there are subgroups who maybe take greater sexual risks and transmit chlamydia more, but do not get tested,” Monica Ideström of the Public Health Agency told TT.

“But we can’t tell whether we would have had even more chlamydia without the possibility to get tested online,” she added.

Chlamydia isn’t the only STD proving to be problematic in Sweden these days. In May it was revealed that syphilis is on the increase in the Nordic nation, with the number of cases almost tripling in some parts of the country. Cases of gonorrhoea meanwhile more than doubled between 1995 and 2015. 

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