Home Testing Kits Are a New Way to Fight the STI Epidemic

In case you haven't already heard, we're in the midst of an STI crisis. Rates of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis have been on a steady incline in recent years, according to Centers for Disease Control (CDC) data collected through 2014. 

Photo credit: MyLab Ltd.

Photo credit: MyLab Ltd.

Young people between the ages of 15 and 24 account for the biggest portion of people with chlamydia and gonorrhea; the CDC has also noted a troubling spike in syphilis cases among gay and bisexual men and an increase in STIs among senior citizens. It's impossible to pinpoint a single reason for the overall trend, but slashed budgets for STD-testing programs and the closure of Planned Parenthood clinics across the US are likely key factors. Various studies also suggest that more sexual activity across wider groups (thanks to online dating) and inadequate public education may have something to do with it, too. STIs are often asymptomatic, so people having sex without being tested regularly are unknowingly spreading infections.

In response to this unsettling trend, there's a push to solve the problem the way every problem gets solved: through apps. The goal is to make regular testing and treatments more accessible, affordable, and discreet.

"Technology is so evolved, yet we were shocked to see that STI testing was still the same as what we grew up with: going to a physician or a clinic," Lora Ivanova, an e-commerce and digital marketing entrepreneur, told VICE. "We wanted to hack the healthcare mechanism to allow everybody to access those solutions in a much faster and easier way."

Ivanova and her business partner, Ursula Hessenflow, created MyLAB Box, a kit that allows users to test for HIV, chlamydia, gonorrhea, and the sexually transmitted parasite trichomoniasis from the privacy of their bathrooms. While there are several existing companies that offer at-home tests for HIV, MyLAB is the first to offer residents of all 50 states such a wide range of at-home testing. In addition to urine tests, it also offers oral, anal, and genital swabs, which are more expensive but can be more accurate. The HIV test involves a finger prick to draw a sample of blood. Collected samples are sent via pre-paid envelope to a lab for testing, and if the results are positive, users will get a call from an STI counsellor, as well as a free telemedicine consultation with a local doctor who can prescribe treatment. The kit starts at $79 for the basic urine test for chlamydia and gonorrhea. (While the costs for such tests at a doctor's office vary widely,Healthcare Bluebook predicts that a chlamydia test alone would cost about $91 for someone without insurance.)

Read the full VICE article here: http://goo.gl/PsLBha