The more common sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) become — and among young people, they are increasingly widespread — the less people seem to be able to talk about them. In a world of TMI (too much information), STDs are still considered so embarrassing that many people are afraid to talk to the doctor about them, preventing timely treatment and exacerbating the problem as the disease is passed along to unsuspecting partners.
But now, you can avoid embarrassment and get up-to-date info about whether you're infected or not — using your phone. In a unique use of the ubiquitous iPhone technology, you will be able to test for STDs using an app. (That's certainly more useful than the Shazam! app.) This new application joins the ranks of "who'd a thunk it" programs like the ones for organ donation, Thanksgiving planning and kid tracking, that have proven useful.
Seems like a great idea, until you start thinking about the logistics of it. Here's how it works.
According to The Guardian, "People who suspect they have been infected will be able to put urine or saliva onto a computer chip about the size of a USB chip, plug it into their phone or computer and receive a diagnosis within minutes, telling them which, if any, sexually transmitted infection (STI) they have." The sooner someone knows they have a sexually transmitted disease, the earlier they can begin treatment (which would eventually involve seeing a doctor or other medical practitioner).
"Your mobile phone can be your mobile doctor. It diagnoses whether you've got one of a range of STIs, such as chlamydia or gonorrhea and tells you where to go next to get treatment," said Dr. Tariq Sadiq, a senior lecturer and consultant physician in sexual health and HIV at St George's, University of London, who is leading the project.
The project has been spearheaded by a number of U.K.-based groups that have come together for funding and implementation. About $6 million (roughly $4 million British pounds) has been invested in the technology, which is near fruition.
Speaking of costs, what kind of cost can the user expect? The testing sticks that would be used in conjunction with the iPhone and the app are inexpensive, about the equivalent of $1 or $1.50, and could be sold in nightclubs, pharmacies, and even supermarkets. Of concern are confidentiality and data encryption. Those are the areas currently being worked on before the app is released and promoted.
Researchers and funders think this simple test will help the under-25 set — among whom the rate of STDs has been rising precipitously — to be more able to diagnose and treat health issues using technology they know and trust. After all, STDs are one of the few pieces of information that probably won't be shared on Facebook — no matter what your age.