Self-collection of vaginal swabs for the detection of Chlamydia, gonorrhea, and trichomoniasis: opportunity to encourage sexually transmitted disease testing among adolescents

Sex Transm Dis. 2001 Jun;28(6):321-5. doi: 10.1097/00007435-200106000-00003.


Background: Many sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are prevalent among adolescents, yet compliance to undergo STD testing by this population is suboptimal. Efforts to enhance compliance with testing among at-risk youth are needed.

Goal: To determine the feasibility and acceptability of self-collection of vaginal swabs for the detection of Chlamydia trachomatis, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, and Trichomonas vaginalis among high-school students attending a school health clinic.

Study design: Enrolled in the study were 228 female students between the ages of 15 and 19 years. Each student self-collected a single vaginal swab that was tested for C trachomatis, N gonorrhoeae, and T vaginalis by polymerase chain reaction amplification. Acceptability of self-collection of vaginal swabs was assessed.

Results: The prevalence of any STD was 18%. Trichomoniasis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea were diagnosed in 10%, 8%, and 2% of students, respectively. Nearly 13% of females who had never previously had a gynecologic examination tested positive for an STD, and 51% of infected students would not have pursued testing by traditional gynecologic examination if self-collection was not offered. Self-collection of vaginal swabs was almost uniformly reported as easy to perform (99%) and preferable to a gynecologic examination (84%). Nearly all (97%) stated that they would undergo testing at frequent intervals if self-testing were available.

Conclusions: Self-collected vaginal swabs for STD testing can be easily implemented in a high-school setting with high acceptability among students, enabling the detection of many STDs that would otherwise remain undetected and untreated.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Health Services*
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Chlamydia Infections / diagnosis
  • Chlamydia Infections / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Gonorrhea / diagnosis
  • Gonorrhea / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Mass Screening* / methods
  • Patient Compliance
  • Pennsylvania / epidemiology
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Prevalence
  • Self Care
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Trichomonas Vaginitis / diagnosis
  • Trichomonas Vaginitis / epidemiology
  • Vagina / microbiology*
  • Vaginal Smears / methods*