Almost 10,000 people have taken up an offer of free condoms from council public health chiefs while more than 20,000 have ordered free home testing kits for sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
The online offers were part of a pilot scheme started during the coronavirus pandemic when lockdowns made it harder for people to be seen face-to-face.
East Sussex County Council’s public health team extended the pilot scheme until earlier this year and has now made it a standard part of its service.
The council said: “An innovative online service offering free condoms alongside sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing kits is now available in East Sussex.
“To mark World Contraception Day next Tuesday (26 September), the East Sussex Public Health team is reminding people that the existing online STI home testing kit delivery service has been expanded to give residents the option to request a complimentary pack of 12 condoms alongside an STI testing kit.
“In addition, those under 25 who can access free condoms alone are also being offered a testing kit.
“The East Sussex public health team partnered with Preventx, the largest provider of remote sexual health testing in the UK, to launch the scheme during the covid pandemic to ensure people could continue to access condoms when it became increasingly difficult for residents to access face-to-face health services.
“Following the success of the pilot scheme, the online condom service is now a standard part of the East Sussex sexual health system.
“During the initial pilot, which ran from September 2021 to February 2023, one in three people who ordered a testing kit also ordered condoms.
“And there was a 500 per cent increase in orders for STI testing kits following the introduction of the condom offer.
“From September 2021 to July 2023, 9,627 online condom orders have been received along with 21,107 STI screening kits.”
Darrell Gale, director of public health for East Sussex, said: “Our online condom service has been extremely well received, with over 74 per cent of all the sexual health services condom orders made online in 2022.
“This scheme also enables us to reach those who have not previously been well served by the traditional health service model and shows that innovative digital services can play a role in removing barriers to care.”
The council said that during the pilot, people placing an order were asked to complete a short survey.
The data collected helped the public health team to understand better the needs of the local population which, it said, was crucial to public health planning.
Mr Gale added: “As well as being effective at preventing pregnancy when used correctly, condoms are the only method of contraception that helps protect against STIs.
“The pilot data has shown that those who ordered condoms were 20 per cent more likely to report a higher number of sexual partners and are potentially at greater risk of STIs.
“Increasing the update of testing and condoms could be key to tackling rising STI rates in East Sussex.”
For information about free and easy online sexual health testing, click here.
Free condoms are also available at sexual health clinics across the county and by post.
A scheme known as the C-card scheme enables those aged 16-24 to access free condoms from a range of outlets across East Sussex.
For more information about it, click here.