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RESEARCH ARTICLE

Stigma associated with sexually transmissible infection testing in an online testing environment: examining the perspectives of youth in Vancouver, Canada

Mohammad Karamouzian A B C , Rod Knight A B D , Wendy M. Davis E , Mark Gilbert A F and Jean Shoveller A B G
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A School of Population and Public Health, University of British Columbia, 2206 East Mall, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z3, Canada.

B British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, 1081 Burrard Street, Vancouver, BC V6Z 1Y6, Canada.

C HIV/STI Surveillance Research Center, and WHO Collaborating Center for HIV Surveillance, Institute for Futures Studies in Health, Kerman University of Medical Sciences, Haft-Bagh Highway, Kerman 7616913555, Iran.

D Faculty of Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University, 8888 University Drive, Burnaby, BC V5A 1S6, Canada.

E Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia, 2194 Health Sciences Mall, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z3, Canada.

F Clinical Prevention Services, BC Centre for Disease Control, 655 West 12th Avenue, Vancouver, BC V5Z 4R4, Canada.

G Corresponding author. Email: jean.shoveller@ubc.ca

Sexual Health - https://doi.org/10.1071/SH17089
Submitted: 29 April 2017  Accepted: 28 June 2017   Published online: 1 September 2017

Abstract

Background: Online sexually transmissible infection (STI) testing is increasingly available and has shown promising results across different settings. However, evidence on how stigma associated with STI testing may be experienced by youth in the context of these online services is limited. Methods: A convenience sample of 71 youth (aged 15–24 years) both male and female was engaged through online and offline recruitment strategies in Vancouver, Canada. Through semistructured and exploratory interviews, participants were asked about their perceptions of stigma associated with STI testing in an online testing environment. Data were analysed using a thematic analysis approach. Results: Youth came from a diverse set of sociodemographic backgrounds and most (n = 46, 65%) had previously accessed STI testing in clinic-based settings. Participants’ perceptions pointed to the benefits of online testing for reducing the external stigma despite the potential persistence of internalised stigma. Notions of hegemonic masculinity and emphasised femininity were also present in the participants’ descriptions of the role of gender in accessing online STI testing. Conclusions: Online STI testing could potentially ameliorate the experiences of participants in regards to the stigma associated with STI testing; however, participants’ internalised feelings of shame and stigma around testing for STI may continue to persist. Our findings underscore the need to revisit and re-evaluate existing STI testing services to provide less anxiety-inducing testing environments for youth.

Additional keywords: Stigma, urban youth.


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