Direct-to-Consumer Sexually Transmitted Infection Screening Methods: Preferred Communication Sources and Channels Among Young Adult Women

Sex Transm Dis. 2023 Sep 1;50(9):619-624. doi: 10.1097/OLQ.0000000000001829. Epub 2023 May 9.


Background: Direct-to-consumer (DTC) sexually transmitted infection (STI) screening methods use self-collected samples in a nonclinical setting. Direct-to-consumer methods may reach a population of women who avoid screening because of stigma and privacy concerns, or who lack access to clinical care. Little is known about the salient dissemination approaches to promote these methods. The study's purpose was to identify preferred sources and communication channels for information about DTC methods among young adult women.

Methods: Participants were sexually active 18- to 24-year-old college women at one university, recruited via purposive sampling using campus email, list-servs, and campus events to participate in an online survey (n = 92). Interested participants were invited to participate in in-depth interviews (n = 24). Both instruments were guided by the Diffusion of Innovation theory to identify relevant communication channels.

Results: Survey participants ranked healthcare providers as their preferred source of information, followed by the Internet and college- and university-based resources. Race was significantly associated with the ranking of partners and family members as information sources. Interview themes focused on healthcare providers legitimizing DTC methods, using the Internet and social media to increase awareness, and linking DTC method education to other services provided by the college.

Conclusions: This study revealed common information sources that college-aged women may use when researching DTC method information and potential channels and strategies for DTC uptake and dissemination. Using trusted sources including healthcare providers, trusted Web sites, and established college resources as dissemination channels may be beneficial to increase the awareness and use of DTC methods for STI screening.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Communication
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Health Personnel
  • Humans
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases* / diagnosis
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases* / prevention & control
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult