St. Georges, University of London is part of a consortium that is developing a mobile app to self diagnose sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). STD kits similar to pregnancy kits would be available for use by the potentially infected. The kits would also allow the user to determine which STD by using a cell phone or computer.
Besides St. Georges, the consortium is made up of Brunel University, Warwick University, Queen Mary, University of London, the Health Protection Agency, and industrial partners. The Medical Research Council, the UK Clinical Research Collaboration and the previously mentioned industrial partners are providing £5.7 million ($9.2 million) for the project.
Dr Taqriq Sadiq, [senior lecturer and consultant physician in sexual health and HIV at St George’s, University of London,] said: “Mobile phones have changed the way we live and communicate, and our team of experts firmly believe that they open up a unique avenue for new ways to diagnose and control STIs. Currently, if you want to know if you have an infection, your sample is usually sent to a laboratory and the results come back in a few days. Imagine how much more likely you would be to get tested if you could test yourself away from a clinic and have an on-the-spot, accurate result, but still let a doctor or pharmacist know within minutes that you may need treatment. This kind of system could also speed up the process of communicating infection trends in the population to public health doctors, allowing for quicker responses to outbreaks of an STI.”
The hope is that by providing a relatively anonymous method for self testing and diagnosis that infected people get earlier treatment and will prevent future infections. The kits would use “nanotechnology – advanced technology on a sub-microscopic scale – to create devices for testing multiple STIs”. Besides pharmacies, vending machines have also been recommended for dispensing the kits similar to the “pleasure kit” and condom dispensers found in public bathrooms.
The testing samples would be inserted into a computer or cell phone for the final STD or clean as a whistle diagnosis. Once the diagnosis is made the test kit could also make an appointment with a local physician and/or send a prescription to the nearest pharmacy for necessary medication that cures the users particular STD. An added bonus would be the tests use of the phones GPS to guide you to the nearest pharmacy.
The technology for the devices is nearly here but other considerations need to be addressed before the STD kits can hit the market. Concerns over confidentiality and data security are at the top of the list. No one will use the kits if they think that any information could wind up becoming public knowledge. For all the talk about having the tests phone in prescription or make doctors appointments, there are serious issues of privacy involved.
Unless tests simply have contacting a doctor or phoning in a prescription as options and not mandatory features, they will never be used. Pharmacies can be tricky especially if you have friends of relatives working in one. Some might prefer an unknown pharmacy just for that reason. Most people are reluctant to go to unknown doctors or doctors they know too well if they have something embarrassing like a STD.
All of those issues will need to be resolved and then there is the problem of telling your sexual partners that they too might be infected. Providing them with a kit through the mail slot may be a cowards way out but it still would deliver the message and hopefully get them to early treatment.
Nothing says “I care” quite like a self diagnosis STD kit.