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The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12889-016-2689-6) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
GH, GK, RR, JB, CH and ND conceived the study and participated in the design of the study; GH carried out the study and performed the analyses; GH and GK contributed to the interpretation of the data and drafted the manuscript. All authors read the manuscript, provided comments and approved of the final manuscript.
It is hard to convince people to participate in chlamydia screening programs outside the clinical setting. In two earlier studies (BMC Public Health. 2013;13:1091; J Med Internet Res. 2014;16(1):e24), we identified explicit and implicit determinants of chlamydia screening behavior and attempted, unsuccessfully, to improve participation rates by optimizing the recruitment letter. In the present study, we examined the links between a number of social-cognitive determinants (e.g., stereotypical beliefs about a person with chlamydia, intentions, changes in partner status), and self-reported chlamydia testing behavior six months after the initial study.
The present study is a follow-up to our first study (T0). We assessed self-reported testing behavior 6 months after the first measure by means of an online questionnaire (T1; N = 269). Furthermore, at T1, we measured the social-cognitive determinants in more detail, and explored the influence of stereotypical beliefs and any changes in partner status during this six month period.
In total, 25 (9.1 %) of the participants tested for chlamydia at some point during the six months between baseline (T0) and follow up (T1). Testing behavior was influenced by testing intentions in combination with changes in risk behavior. The higher the participants’ own numbers of partners ever, the higher they estimated the number of partners of the stereotypical person with chlamydia. Testing intentions were most strongly predicted by perceived norms and susceptibility, and having had multiple partners in the last 6 months (R2 = .41).
The most relevant determinants for testing intentions and behavior were susceptibility, subjective norms and changes in partner status. We found a systematic tendency for individuals to underestimate their own risk, especially the risk of inconsistent condom use. Future research should focus on more promising alternatives to population-based interventions, such as online interventions, screening in primary care, the rescreening of positives, and clinic-based interventions. This future research should also focus on making testing easier and reducing barriers to testing, as well as using social and sexual networks in order to reach more people.