Researchers revealed that when it comes to screening for sexually transmitted infections (STIs), female commercial sex workers (CSW) prefer self-collection of samples to traditional tests.
The simple and convenient screening method used by the researchers at the University of Westminster didn't require the sex workers to attend clinics.
The women were given tampons that they could use to collect their own samples, and post them to a laboratory.
The results also indicated that the women in the study found self-collection of samples very easy and the testing methods used in the study proved to be more accurate than traditional tests.
Lead author of the study, Dr. Patrick Kimmitt, pointed out that despite their risk of exposure to STIs, female CSW were reluctant to attend clinics for regular screening for such infections.
That might due to unsuitability of opening times, fear of stigma or the false concern of the possibility of being reported to the police.
"Point of care testing" delivered at their workplace is more attractive to this patient group.
The study involved 65 CSW, all of whom were asked to complete a questionnaire in which they indicated their preferences for screening and ease of use of sample collection.
The samples were processed in the laboratory using a method called PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) which rapidly detects a unique DNA sequence in three of the micro-organisms that cause STIs, gonorrhoea, Chlamydia and Trichomonas.
The researchers also collected samples and screened for those pathogens using traditional laboratory methods for comparison.
The results showed that all the women found self-collection of samples very easy, and preferred this method of screening for STIs.
Furthermore, more cases of gonorrhea and Chlamydia were found using the PCR method compared to traditional methods.
"If this is seen to be an acceptable method then it could be considered as a possible testing device for other patient groups who also find it difficult, or are reluctant, to access mainstream sexual health screening services, such as women in rural areas, prison screening services or teenagers," said Dr. Kimmitt.
"The tampon is a small device that can be easily posted to a central laboratory for processing and is less likely to leak than a urine specimen. It is also small enough for easy storage," the researchers added.
The findings were presented to the Society for General Microbiology meeting in Harrogate.