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Independents' Day

Patients willing to provide vaginal swabs

Sexual health

Sexual health

Women prefer to give a vaginal swab rather than a urine sample for chlamydia screening.

The study, based in North London, recruited 4,998 women aged 16-24 years participating in the National Chlamydia Screening Programme (NCSP) between June 2003 and April 2004. Of the 3,936 women who accepted screening, 90.4% provided a vaginal swab and only 5.8% a urine sample.

No woman stated a reluctance to provide a swab as a reason for declining screening.

Women aged 20 years and over and those from Asian ethnic groups were most likely to decline screening (P=0.03 and P=<0.001 respectively). However, the authors stated that this may be because of perceived low risk; women in these groups were less likely to have a positive test result, with 6.2% and 4.3% of women respectively testing positive, compared with an overall prevalence of 7.3%.

Swabs have many advantages compared with urine specimens. They are easier to transport, do not require refrigeration, have no risk of spillage and are easier and quicker to process.

The majority of NCSP sites offer screening to men and women under 25 using urine samples. This study confirms that swabs provided by the patient are an acceptable alternative.

Doshi JS, Power J, Allen E. Acceptability of chlamydia screening using self-taken vaginal swabs Int J STD AIDS 2008;19:507-509


Dr Richard Ma
GP principal, North London and staff grade in sexual and reproductive health, Margaret Pyke Centre, London

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