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Highlights of the 2013 BCCDC Research Week

The BC Centre for Disease Control held its 6th annual Research Week this past November 2013.  The aim of Research Week is to showcase the many different areas of research within the Centre.

Clinical Prevention Services contributed a number of oral and poster presentations specific to sexual health and STI research.  For further information, the poster presentations are available for download (under Additional Resources below).

Self-collected versus clinician-collected sampling for sexually transmitted infections: A systemic review and meta-analysis (Darlene Taylor)

Darlene Taylor presented the results of a systematic review that provided pooled sensitivities and specificities of self-collected specimens for HPV, gonorrhea, and chlamydia testing. The results of three studies (n=1012) of self- vs. clinician-collected urethral swabs produced a homogenous pooled sensitivity of 0.92 (CI 0.83-0.97) and a pooled specificity of 0.99 (CI 0.99-1.0). These results will play an important role in informing online STI testing and other programs aimed at reducing barriers to testing in hard-to-reach populations.

Short Message Service (SMS) interventions for the prevention and treatment of Sexually Transmitted Infections: A systematic review protocol (Jasmina Memetovic, Orion Warje)

Text messaging has become the most common mode of communication among almost six billion mobile phone users worldwide. Text messaging can be used to remind patients about clinic appointments and STI re-testing, and for patients to communicate with their health professionals about sexual health questions and concerns they may have. This is the first systematic review to comprehensively examine studies of the effectiveness of short message service on multiple outcomes relating to sexual health and sexually transmitted infections.  It may provide evidence to make text messaging a standard practice in sexual health care.

Immediate staging to improve engagement in HIV care in low-threshold public health clinics service gay and other MSM in Vancouver (Richard Lester et al.)

The Bute Street and Health Initiative for Men clinics are low threshold STI/HIV testing facilities in downtown Vancouver.  These clinics are staffed by BC Centre for Disease Control nurses, and mostly serve gay men and other MSM. We proposed that offering on-site CD4 and viral load (pVL) testing at the time of HIV diagnosis, a formalized referral process, and ongoing nursing support would aid in the transition to nominal care and treatment. The immediate staging pilot began in August 2012 and preliminary data suggest that offering these services may assist in linkage to care at low-threshold HIV testing facilities.

Client acceptability and perceptions of pre-exposure prophylaxis for the prevention of STIs (Annelies Becu et al.)

The emergence of HIV PrEP has enabled the consideration of STI Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (STI PrEP) from a public and scientific perspective. Despite being a novel proposal, STI PrEP doesn’t differ substantially in practice from two accepted antimicrobial approaches: (a) empiric treatment of cases and their sexual contacts based on risk rather than a confirmed diagnosis, and (b) periodic presumptive treatment of STIs. STI pre-exposure prophylaxis may supplement global STI control efforts by empowering individuals to reduce their risk of infections in addition to condom use.

Incident HPV infection at 48 months among women in the HPV FOCAL Trial (Laurie Smith, Gina Ogilvie et al.)

A randomized controlled cervical cancer screening trial (HPV FOCAL), comparing the efficacy of high-risk HPV testing vs. cytology (Pap test), showed that women who acquired high-risk HPV infection during 4 years of follow-up had no significant cervical disease at study exit.  This suggests that an extended high-risk HPV screening interval (vs. standard-of-care bi-annual Pap) is safe.

Uptake and case detection of prenatal screening of maternal syphilis, HIV and hepatitis C in BC (Mark Gilbert et al.)

In BC, prenatal screening for syphilis and HIV is high and is improving annually with declining diagnosis rates. Previous research in BC suggests that HCV prevalence in pregnant women is underestimated based on risk-based screening. The low HCV screening rates and high prevalence observed in our study corroborates the need to consider broader prenatal HCV screening.

It is from exciting research like this that new policy is generated to provide better health service and patient care. By sharing each other’s work in symposiums such as Research Week, we can cultivate an atmosphere of creativity and productivity which is, in itself, infectious!