The HSE has announced that a free national home testing service for sexually transmitted infections for those aged 17 and over, which was piloted last year, has now been expanded to all counties in the Republic of Ireland.

The service will see people aged 17 and older be able to order a free STI test kit through an online platform, which is then delivered to their home by post.

Once users complete the test at home, they then post the samples back to the laboratory in a pre-paid envelope which will also be provided to them.

People will later receive their results by text or phone, with those in need of further testing or treatment referred to participating public STI clinics.

The service has been launched by the HSE's Sexual Health and Crisis Pregnancy Programme and is being operated by Sexual Health 24.

The HSE said the service is generally more suited to those with no STI symptoms, adding that those who have symptoms are advised to attend an STI clinic or their GP.

Kits can be accessed through sexualwellbeing.ie.

The move follows a five-month pilot home testing service last year in counties Dublin, Cork and Kerry, when over 13,700 kits were ordered - 5,000 of which were in the first 24 hours of the service going live.

Overall, 8% of these tests were referred to clinics for further care, while 57% of users said they had never used a sexual health service before.

The service was continued on a temporary basis following the pilot, in order to improve STI testing capacity given Covid-19 restrictions in clinics.

As of today, the service has been expanded to all counties.

The Health Protection Surveillance Centre has reported that, overall, notifications of STIs are on the rise.

It attributes this to the impact of Covid-19 on healthcare services, and social interaction.