STI stigma encourages dangerous online buying
The most expensive is £145, the average is £50 and there's no guarantee that they'll work.
These are the treatments for sexually-transmitted infections (STIs) such as chlmydia and genital warts that you can buy over the internet. Sounds dodgy? Research carried out at the University of East Anglia suggests that people with STIs are putting themselves at real risk by buying treatments in this way.
This research led by Dr Roberto Vivancos found a total of 77 treatments from 52 different companies available on the internet, including on ebay. The remedies, aimed at conditions such as genital warts, herpes, gonorrhea, and chlamydia, cost on average £50, with the most expensive being £145.
But there was very little solid evidence from the internet vendors to back up their claims that their products worked. Less than a quarter of them gave information on potential side effects of their treatments. Many failed to say if their products would interfere with any prescription medicines while less than a quarter of vendors provided advice on how to avoid transmission and becoming re-infected.
'Owing to the stigma associated with sexually transmitted infections, patients may prefer to hide their illness, and choose instead to try out internet remedies in the privacy of their own homes. However, such remedies may prove hazardous if the sellers do not provide detailed advice on adverse effects, or on avoiding transmission and re-infection,' said Dr Vivancos. 'Patients can become unable to have children if gonorrhea and chlamydia are not properly treated.
'It may be easy and convenient to buy your own treatment on the internet but treatment of sexually transmitted infections is not a simple one-off step of popping the pills or slapping on the creams. Some of these remedies will inevitably fail if sexual partners are not treated and if patients don't take steps to avoid re-infection.'
Testing is one thing but treatment is another said Dr Vivancos. 'Patients nowadays can easily buy kits from the internet to test themselves for sexually transmitted infections and they may be tempted to do the same when they need treatment. But the NHS offers a professional, confidential treatment service that is likely to be far better and cheaper than taking chances on an unproven internet remedy.'
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Page created on November 27th, 2007
Page updated on January 16th, 2010