A website has been set up by a sexual health foundation in San Francisco that allows men to order STD tests and receive results and medical counselling online.
The site, aimed primarily at gay and bisexual men, is funded by the San Francisco Department of Health and was created by the non-profit organisation Internet Sexuality Information Services (ISIS) Inc.
"More people got tested because we provided a convenient and accessible alternative to showing up at the clinic, where there could be a two-hour wait," Deborah Levine, director of ISIS Inc., told American Medical News.
People who want to be tested complete a form online that generates a "syphilis test packet" containing a unique ID number. They then take the package to their nearest participating laboratory in the area and have a blood sample taken. The results of the test are made available online within 3-7 days. If the patient is positive, they are told to see their doctor for immediately.
A recent study of the site found that six new infections were diagnosed over the first 12 months of the site that wouldn’t have been found otherwise, with another 14 found over the past three months. A total of 218 tests were taken using the service in one year.
"Conversations with these men indicated that they would have delayed testing as a result of the long wait times and limited hours of the STD clinic," said the study, published in the journal Sexually Transmitted Diseases. All six cases were treated and cured.
Another website created by ISIS Inc allows people to send e-cards to partners telling them they may have been infected.
Inspot.org allows people to send messages to previous partners saying they may be infected and they should be tested. The service is completely anonymous and no e-mail addresses are stored.
Richard Rothenburg, MD, secretary-treasurer of the American Sexually Transmitted Diseases Association commented: "If people can find friends on the internet, we should be able to find disease."
The STD test website was priced at $20,000 (£10,400) to set up and costs $40 (£20) per month to run.