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Chlamydia can be caught in the Net


The Internet and the mail proved to be good aids in tracing chlamydia among young men. The results of an acclaimed project at Umeå University in Sweden are now being published in the September issue of the journal Eurosurveillance. With this method, 39 percent (396 of 1,016 interviewees), which is the highest published participation rate ever in a chlamydia screening of young men.

The project, being run by the researching general practitioner Daniel Novak together with his thesis director Roger Karlsson and Monica Jonsson at the Unit for General Medicine, covered all 22-year-old men in Umeå during the year 2002. In order to increase the rate of participation, attempts were made to make the taking of samples as little embarrassing, as anonymous, and as attractive as possible. Everyone received an envelope at home including an information sheet, a questionnaire, and a personally coded plastic capsule. Participation was voluntary, and only one researcher had access to the names behind the codes. Those men who wished to be tested submitted a urine sample in the coded capsule and sent it in to the laboratory. The samples were tested there for chlamydia, and the results were entered into a database. Participants could then see for themselves what their results were by entering their codes on a special Web page at the County Council. If their urine samples proved to contain chlamydia bacteria, they were urged to make contact for free treatment. The Internet page also contained detailed information about chlamydia and other sexually transferred diseases.

Four men of the 396 who sent in samples tested positive, which means a rate of prevalence among the group of 1.1 percent. This is a low figure, which indicates that the study reached men outside the risk group that seek out a test on their own.

Only three men phoned the researchers to get their results, while the rest checked their results on the Web page. The page had more visits than the number of tested urine samples. Of the four infect men, three received their results via the Internet and sought treatment on their own. The fourth man was contacted in accordance with the Act on Contagious Diseases, since he himself had not registered with the researchers. It turned out that he did not understand Swedish well enough to understand how to go about finding his result.

The two most common reasons for men not wanting to participate in the study were that they did not believe they were infected (50%) and that they were in a stable relationship (55%).

The number of chlamydia cases has steadily increased since 1996. Last year more than 24,500 were reported. Most often the person infected has no symptoms, and without treatment the infection can lead to infertility in women and reduced fertility in men.

Monday, September 1, is Chlamydia Day. To place the problem of unprotected sex in the limelight and get more young people to have themselves tested, several hospitals and youth clinics in the country will have Open House to inform the public and test for this infection.

Information about the project and about chlamydia can be provided by Daniel Novak, researcher and general practitioner at the Unit for General Medicine and lead author of the article in Eurosurveillance.

Hans Fällman | alfa
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