STI-X – Victoria’s rural STI vending machine pilot well underway

By, Dr. Dave Evans

We are excited to announce that STI-X, the sexually transmissible infections (STI) test vending machine pilot in rural and regional Victoria, is nearly eight months into the yearlong trial. Both machines will be on the move in March to their third community locations. The vending machines will be placed in the Alfred Deakin Centre near Mildura Waves in Mildura and on the veranda of the Mansfield Youth Centre, in…you guessed it…Mansfield.

So far, we have dispensed over 100 STI test kits during the pilot. Of those test kits that were returned for analysis, we have detected multiple cases of STIs. Any individual receiving a positive result was supported in accessing timely treatment.

With four months in each machine’s final location remaining, we are optimistic that we will continue to expand our knowledge and community reach with this novel testing solution for rural and regional communities.

While the formal evaluation of the pilot is still to come, so far, we are also finding that most users think the process to acquire a test kit is fast and easy. We are even seeing individuals outside of our priority groups using these machines and providing favourable feedback. This is encouraging as people in many of these communities often face barriers accessing services such as longer wait times for GP appointments, few specialist services, and limited bulk-billing options.

The formal evaluation will take place during the third and fourth quarters of this year. The data we capture will help us determine whether this is truly a viable solution and if so, what can be done better and how. We will be working with our colleagues at Melbourne Sexual Health Centre and the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health to complete this evaluation.

It is currently our hope that we will continue to see this level of community acceptance which will support future work in this area of accessible digital health. We will also be determining whether we can increase the number of infections we test for, or the types of tests included, but this will be contingent on wider support from the healthcare system and regulatory bodies.

Published: February 2024