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Self-collection of samples as an additional approach to deliver testing services for sexually transmitted infections: a systematic review and meta-analysis
  1. Yasmin Ogale1,
  2. Ping Teresa Yeh1,
  3. Caitlin E Kennedy1,
  4. Igor Toskin2,
  5. Manjulaa Narasimhan2
  1. 1Department of International Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland, USA
  2. 2Department of Reproductive Health and Research, Organisation mondiale de la Santé, Geneve, Switzerland
  1. Correspondence to Dr Manjulaa Narasimhan; narasimhanm{at}


Background Self-collection of samples for diagnostic testing offers the advantages of patient autonomy, confidentiality and convenience. Despite data showing their feasibility and accuracy, there is a need to better understand how to implement such interventions for sexually transmitted infections (STIs). To support WHO guidelines on self-care interventions, we conducted a systematic review to investigate whether self-collection of samples should be made available as an additional approach to deliver STI testing services.

Methods Peer-reviewed studies were included if they compared individuals who self-collected samples for chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis and/or trichomonas testing to individuals who had samples collected by clinicians on the following outcomes: uptake/frequency of STI testing, social harms/adverse events, positive yield (case finding), linkage to clinical assessment/treatment and reported sexual risk behaviour. We searched PubMed, CINAHL, LILACS and EMBASE for articles published through July 2018. Risk of bias was assessed using the Cochrane tool for randomised controlled trials (RCTs) and the Evidence Project tool for non-RCTs. Meta-analysis was conducted using random effects models to generate pooled estimates of relative risk (RR).

Results Eleven studies, including five RCTs and six observational studies with a total of 202 745 participants, met inclusion criteria. Studies were conducted in Australia, Denmark and the USA. Meta-analysis found that programmes offering self-collection of samples increased overall uptake of STI testing services (RR: 2.941, 95% CI 1.188 to 7.281) and case finding (RR: 2.166, 95% CI 1.043 to 4.498). No studies reported measuring STI testing frequency, social harms/adverse events, linkage to care or sexual risk behaviour.

Discussion While greater diversity in study designs, outcomes and settings would strengthen the evidence base, findings from this review suggest that self-collection of STI samples could be an effective additional strategy to increase STI testing uptake.

Prospero registration number PROSPERO CRD42018114866.

  • sexually transmitted infections
  • self-collection
  • sti testing
  • sti diagnosis
  • meta-analysis

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  • YO and PTY contributed equally.

  • Handling editor Seye Abimbola

  • Contributors MN conceptualised the study. CEK and PTY designed the protocol. CEK conducted the search. YPO and PTY conducted screening, data extraction and assessment of bias and quality of reporting. YPO and PTY drafted the manuscript. YPO, PTY, CEK, IT and MN reviewed the draft, provided critical review and read and approved the final manuscript. The corresponding author, as guarantor, accepts full responsibility for the finished article, has access to any data and controlled the decision to publish. The corresponding author attests that all listed authors meet authorship criteria and that no others meeting the criteria have been omitted.

  • Funding We gratefully acknowledge financial support of the UNDP-UNFPA-UNICEF-WHO-World Bank Special Programme of Research, Development and Research Training in Human Reproduction (HRP) and the Children's Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF). HRP was involved in the study design.

  • Disclaimer The funders played no part in the decision to submit the article for publication nor in the collection, analysis and interpretation of data. All authors had full access to all of the data (including statistical reports and tables) in the study and can take responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis.

  • Competing interests All authors have completed the ICMJE uniform disclosure form at and declare: no support from any organization for the submitted work; no financial relationships with any organizations that might have an interest in the submitted work in the previous three years; no other relationships or activities that could appear to have influenced the submitted work.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement Extracted data are available on request to the corresponding author.