by Kate Ebbutt
Preventx is now offering sexual health services across the United States, after opening a specialised lab and dispatch centre in Cincinnati, Ohio. Working primarily with U.S. public health departments to help control the rapidly increasing spread of sexually transmitted infections, Preventx hopes that our experience in Europe will help address critical gaps in existing testing strategies.
With the recent increase in reported cases of STIs and public health budgetary constraints, the U.S. is on the verge of a public health crisis. According to the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) surveillance data, more than 2.5 million reported cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis were reported in the U.S. in 2021 and all increased between 2020 and 2021. To reverse this trend, the CDC called for more groups to contribute to STI prevention and innovation efforts, with testing at the center of the prevention strategies. Additionally, through the Ending the HIV Epidemic initiative, the Department of Health and Human Services has set an ambitious goal of reducing all new HIV infections in the U.S. by 90% by 2030.
“We have a serious problem in the U.S. with the recent increase in STI cases pushing us towards a public health emergency and we have a professional responsibility, to do everything we can to stop the spread,” said Barbara Van Der Pol, PhD, MPH, Preventx Laboratory Director. “The COVID-19 pandemic led to disruptions in STI-related prevention and care activities and brought the realities of our strained public health infrastructure to light. We also learned that remote testing is a viable strategy that gives people, no matter where they live, greater access to prevention methods and overall health care.”
Current approaches to testing, which often rely on in-person clinic visits, fall short if we don’t reach at-risk or underserved populations. The Preventx digital platform and remote testing approach allows public health decision makers to target hard-to-reach groups, including those uncomfortable visiting a clinic, those with scheduling difficulties, and those living far from a clinic. At the same time, by providing testing services to large numbers of people who do not need to be seen in clinic, capacity of health care providers is freed up, enabling them to attend to those with more complex needs, those for whom online testing is not an option, and those who prefer face-to-face care.
“Against a backdrop of decreased funding for STI prevention and the complexities of the U.S. healthcare system, U.S. public health officials are tasked with safeguarding the well-being of their communities, preventing and mitigating the spread of infections including STIs, ensuring equitable access to care, and all while containing costs,” said Dr. Stephen Jordan, US Medical Director, Preventx
“Public health budgets are being cut while pressures on Disease Intervention Specialists and other public health staff increase, so remote testing can give some relief to U.S. public health officials who must demonstrate the value of new solutions and be nimble enough to reach more people, including vulnerable, at-risk populations, but may not have the bandwidth or resources to unlock funding and see a viable path forward,” added Nick Malhomme, International Development Director, Preventx.
“In this era of advancing technology and changing healthcare landscapes, the emergence of hybrid, digital and in-person, testing companies presents an opportunity to substantially enhance the public health value delivered to people,” said Ruth Poole, CEO of Preventx. “The results we’ve seen through our programs in Europe have been substantial STI testing volumes, STI treatment, prevention of STI spread, and user satisfaction. We are now in a position to bring these solutions, and the positive results, to public health officials in the U.S.”