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For the first time since 1993, the Center for Disease Control says that rates of HIV are on the rise. Additionally, reports of STDs are also climbing. While increases are small, researchers warn that this trend will only get worse.
Combating statistics like these are what drove Brandon Greenberg to create Mately, a new app that aims to change the way we talk about STDs.
Mately allows users to test their blood and urine for STDs and HIV and upload the results to the app. Greenberg stresses that the results are completely private and users are not required to share their information.
Greenberg told the Daily Dot in an email, “We see this as something people can use in addition to something like Tinder. Before meeting, couples can share their results privately for additional safety.”
“This app,” he added, “is not made to replace the conversation about STDs that people have to have before sex, but to supplement it.”
The app also offers a badge that users can display on their dating profiles that indicate they are a member of Mately. Greenberg stresses that nothing about the app indicates a user’s results, only that the user is a member.
Greenberg is currently raising money for the app through an Indigogo campaign. The campaign has raised just over $3,000 of its $500,000 goal. Part of the reason for the lack of enthusiasm around the project could be the cost. The app costs $30 a month, in addition to a $70 joining fee, which includes the testing process.
“This app is not made to replace the conversation about STDs that people have to have before sex, but to supplement it.”
But according to Greenberg, initial studies the company has done among its target market (heterosexual men, gay men, and gay women) have shown that 40 percent of people believe the app is worth the cost. And that number rises up to 60 percent once the app has been explained.
Another concern with the app is privacy. Having medical information stored on a third-party app could make some squeamish. Ken Davidson, chief technology officer for Mately, told the Daily Dot that the company has servers dedicated to hosting the information. “We are not storing anything on the cloud. Information is encrypted both going in and going out.”
And the app isn’t quite as simple as an at-home test. To ensure against fraud, users have to take their test to a participating pharmacy, which collects the samples and mails it in. But Greenberg explains, “Compared to a doctor’s office, the process is easy and affordable.”
An advantage to the app is that it is not entering a particularly crowded field. Recently, Tinder partnered with the health app Healthvana to include nearby STD testing centers. Additionally, last year, Planned Parenthood launched an app that offers an at-home STD test. The cost of the test is a flat $149 and the app is currently available in both Google and Apple app stores as “Planned Parenthood Direct.”
Other efforts to combine personal technology and STD testing include recent efforts by U.K.-based eSTI2 consortium and Samual Sia, associate professor of biomedical engineering at Columbia University. However, both of those efforts have yet to result in a commercially available application.
In the meantime, Greenberg is just hoping to do some good and make us all healthier through technology. “We need to do something,” he stressed. “I think Mately is one of the best ways we can address this problem.”
Lyz Lenz is currently the managing editor of the Rumpus. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Jezebel, the Columbia Journalism Review, and Mashable.