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25th October 2014

Will apps pave the way for a more open conversation on STDs?

How often do you talk to your sexual partners about sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)?

In a world where even just being communicative and open about sex remains a challenge, the topic of STDs is rarely broached between people. The taboo surrounding STDs often works against people’s best interests, as a more open approach would help people be more proactive about their sexual health, and can even prevent further infection.

There has been a flurry of new apps recently that promise to help solve that problem, aided by the web’s anonymity, access, and the portability of smartphones.

One example is the Swedish app STD Triage, which allows people to send pictures of their infections to a specialist and get a diagnosis within an average of six hours. The team behind STD Triage originally ran just the online dermatology service iDoc24 – a Swedish medtech startup grown in the minutes between procedures by working Swedish surgeon Alexander Börve. After noticing that about 35% of cases submitted were of intimate or “embarrassing” skin conditions from anonymous users, the team started STD Triage to address specifically those infections.

Another app, Healthvana, tries to streamline the process of STD testing, by providing users with information on the nearest test centres, facilitating communication between patients and clinics, and allowing users to easily (and discreetly) share results with partners.

Users can create public profiles, but they have the option of making their Healthvana private and just share their results with specific people, too.

Labs can upload the results of STD tests directly to a patient’s profile, with the app translating clinical jargon into more understandable terms (either “negative” or “positive.”) The results can also be shared with partners through a text message, which can be via the app.

Healthvana is currently available in 14 languages and it’s free, although the makers of the app are considering ways to monetise it.

Making STD testing such a socially engaging experience might be a challenging task for some people. Perhaps by opening up the process, we can dispel the sigma and myths surrounding STDs, and become a sexually healthier society – in more ways than one.

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Header Photo credit: Trevor Cummings/Flickr