Dating has made it to the 21st century with apps and websites, but other things that go with it, such as STD testing, seem stuck in the past. Now, companies, universities, and government agencies are rushing to fill the gap as the STD rate skyrockets. A new app is being developed at its earliest stages which can diagnose HIV and syphilis in mere minutes. Iván Balán, PhD and colleagues of Columbia University are developing this application. These would be useful for those who often have risky sex. The plan for the app was unveiled at the HIV Research for Prevention conference. He and fellow researchers have been looking into high-risk groups such as men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgendered women to help manage the risk. According to the researcher, some in this group go on healthy appearance and others just ask a person’s status. But these strategies just aren’t comprehensive enough.
A 2012 pilot study found that those who were at risk could reduce their chances of infection via a quick HIV screening. 27 participants were included in this small study. Each used OraQuick—a fast over-the-counter HIV test. Participants used it over the course of three months. More than 100 partners in total were tested. Seven were found to be HIV-positive. There was no unprotected sex among participants and partners over the course of the study. Now, this kind of approach is being tested in a larger study, with 300 participants. Researchers are hoping to marry this with what is known as the mChip dongle. This is a test which has advantages over the oral screening and can detect many different STDs. It used a finger-stick. A blood sample is taken to check for HIV antibodies and those for syphilis. Using a smartphone, results can be delivered within 15 minutes. 85% of the participants in the current, larger OraQuick trial were warm to the idea of a smartphone test. Things like accuracy, cost, and whether or not drawing a little blood might kill the mood, are some concerns. Such an app is still under development, but should be on available in a few years. Until that time, be sure to be screened annually for STDs either with a doctor or urologist.