STD medical check-up deal creates internet stir

Voucher deal offering discounted STD tests causes shock online, but is welcomed by health chiefs.

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DUBAI // An offer of discount medical tests for sexually transmitted diseases on a deal-of-the day website has met disbelief on Twitter but praise from health experts.

The offer, on the Groupon website, has basic or advanced tests and a consultation for STDs for Dh555 at the Scientific Clinical Laboratories (SCL) on Jumeirah Beach Road - half the price of a normal test.

The offer says: "Give yourself peace of mind with an STD basic or advanced test and consultation from Dh555 at Scientific Clinical Laboratories." It was put on the website on Saturday and as of last night eight people had bought the deal.

Groupon yesterday said the Ministry of Health had approved the offer.

"We do a lot of different medical offers on the site and we have the full spectrum of deals," said Ainsley Duncombe of Groupon UAE.

Mr Duncombe would not comment directly on the STD offer but said medical deals were popular.

The tests cover STDs such as herpes, chlamydia, hepatitis B and C, syphilis and HIV. The offer is valid for four months.

The normal price for a basic test at SCL is Dh1,000 and for an advanced test is Dh1,570.

Mohammed Daoud, the managing director of SCL, said the aim of using Groupon was to raise awareness of STDs.

"Most people think that STDs can be contracted through sex," Mr Daoud said. "This is true, but they can also be contracted through non-sterile use of manicure and pedicure equipment, or shared personal items like toothbrushes and razors."

He assured people taking the tests that results would remain confidential, "however, if someone is detected to have HIV then under rules from Dubai Health Authority we have to report that".

News of the offer rapidly spread on Twitter.

"Now here's something you never thought Groupon would offer in Dubai: a deal on STD testing. No joke," tweeted Omar El Gammal.

"This falls under the 'you can't be serious' category," said Lynn Gervais.

"Group buying goes contagious," Adam Broom tweeted.

Medical experts welcomed the deal as a way of raising awareness.

Dr Fatma Al Maskari, an associate professor of community medicine at UAE University, said: "I think as long as the privacy of the patient is guaranteed then this is fine. Even if we are in a conservative society we are doing these HIV tests for everybody who is applying for a permit visa."

Nabil Sulaiman, the head of the department of family and community medicine at the University of Sharjah, welcomed the offer with some reservations.

"I don't have an issue with people taking advantage and going," Mr Sulaiman said. "But what happens afterwards? Who has the rights to the results?

"Another issue will be the cost of treatment. If someone is found to have a particular disease will they be pressured into getting potentially expensive treatment there when cheaper alternatives are available?"