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Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 3(4)

The use of focus groups to design an internet-based program for chlamydia screening with self-administered vaginal swabs: what women want

Charlotte A. Gaydos A C, Patricia A. Rizzo-Price A, Mathilda Barnes A, Karen Dwyer B, Billie Jo Wood A, M. Terry Hogan A

A Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, USA.
B Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, PA, USA.
C Corresponding author. Email: cgaydos@jhmi.edu
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Objective: To ascertain the opinions, concerns and perceptions of sexually active women to guide the development of an internet-based chlamydia outreach and screening program using self-administered vaginal swabs as a first step to prevention. Methods: Seven focus groups were conducted by trained facilitators. Questions were designed to initially open the discussion and elicit the members’ own perceptions. Secondary, more probing questions were asked later to confirm participants’ responses and elicit truthful answers. The main discussion topics were women’s ideas about internet recruitment for chlamydia screening, preferred genital sample type, self-sampling at home using vaginal swabs and using the mail to return specimens. Participants were 42 women, aged 14–49 years. Structured discussions were facilitated using open-ended questions about access to chlamydia testing via the internet. Data were collected and reviewed for common themes and emphasis. Results: All women actively participated in the discussions, providing valuable information. The concepts of self-sampling and the overall project were viewed positively, along with draft advertisements, questionnaires and self-sampling instructions; some modifications were suggested. Common themes included offering free kits available within their community or by direct mail, as well as pre-addressed, stamped mailers for returning the kit to the laboratory for testing. Commonly perceived obstacles and potential risks included: maintenance of confidentiality; situations of embarrassment; and ensuring simplicity of packaging. Women indicated confidence in their ability to collect vaginal specimens and willingness to call for their test results. Conclusions: Focus-group surveys were a useful tool and provided valuable feedback to inform the design of a specialised website to educate and facilitate access to chlamydia screening through home sampling.

Keywords: Chlamydia trachomatis, internet screening.

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