Need to get tested, but just can’t find the time or are way too embarrassed to even schedule the appointment? There’s an app for that…or rather, there will be soon. A UK clinical research group has received a multimillion dollar investment to develop the technology for smartphones to discreetly analyze sexual health. Users will be able to apply a drop or two of urine or saliva on a chip that is then inserted into the phone. Your sample is analyzed, and your phone gives you the results. Sure, there will be no comforting words of reassurance from a real, live health professional, but there won’t be any imagined scorn either.
What sounds like the ultimate in technological dependence (and don’t get us wrong, it is) undeniably has an upside. Developers plan on inexpensive pricing (hopefully $1) for the USB-sized chips, and having them for sale in vending machines at bars and concert venues. Yes, right next to the condoms. And in addition to simply delivering the bad or good news, the app will also offer the ability to make an appointment for follow up, or direct you to the nearest pharmacy with advice on over the counter medications.
At the moment, the chips look to be compatible with all models except the iPhone, because it doesn’t allow access for micro-USB chips. While this might be farther in the future for Apple users, the current developments are aimed at the irresponsible, who perhaps put off testing out of shame or inconvenience. “Britain is one of the worst [countries] in western Europe for teenage pregnancy and STIs,” project chief Dr. Tariq Sadiq explains.
Tariq insists the technology is very close to becoming a reality for smartphone users, and that the team is focusing on ensuring privacy and data protection.
It definitely feels like this app pushes up against some sort of human boundary. Still, it will deliver the results in mere minutes, as opposed to the hellish several days after a clinic appointment – and it could encourage people to get tested more often. And with approximately 19 million new STD infections in the US every year, that might not hurt.