Cell Phone STD Diagnosis
Responsible adults -- especially those with multiple sexual partners -- should do the right thing and get themselves tested for sexually transmitted diseases (STD) every few months. But let's face it, not everyone having intercourse is nearly so dependable, and besides, it takes so much time and effort. (Big sigh!) Soon, however, getting tested for STDs may be as easy as using an app on your cell phone -- at which point time and effort will no longer be a plausible excuse.
Forward-thinking scientists in England at St. George's University of London are creating a method of STD testing that is similar in concept to a home pregnancy test kit. It can be used in the privacy of your own home, dorm room, at the bar after just meeting someone you make a special connection with, or just about anywhere that's convenient. When the device, approximately the same size as a USB chip, is put into contact with the user's urine or saliva (I did say at the bar), it must then be connected to a cell phone or computer. Amazingly, the diagnosis only takes between five and 15 minutes. If it is positive, the readout tells the user whether it they have contracted an STD, which one it is, and what to do for treatment. Why heck, you could even test that special someone you just met while downing consecutive Rising Suns at the bar…as part of the courting ritual, mind you.
This innovative diagnostic tool is being developed to combat the already high and steadily growing numbers of infected people in the U.K. Last year, nearly 483,000 people reported an STD and the vast majority of new cases were in those under 25 years old. Other western European countries and the United States are also experiencing rising STD rates. In America, there were more than 120,000 cases of Chlamydia alone in 2008, which is roughly double the number seen just 10 years earlier.
The creators of the testing device are hoping that it will appeal to younger members of society who are very comfortable with technology. People in this age group, who are more than twice as likely to develop a new STD as their older counterparts, are also decidedly shy about visiting a doctor's office or clinic to get tested. They may be unaware that they are in need of testing, as some people are asymptomatic after infection with an STD, or they may simply be too embarrassed to face a health professional. In any case, without treatment they will suffer the effects of the disease and pass it along to their subsequent sexual partners. By offering privacy and confidentiality, sexual health experts are optimistic that more young people will opt to get tested on a regular basis.
The device is designed to screen for several of the most widely occurring STDs including Chlamydia, gonorrhea, and herpes. Chlamydia, often presents with no symptoms, but the symptoms that do most frequently appear are discharge from the vagina or penis and a burning sensation upon urination. It is cured by a course of antibiotics. Also known as the clap, gonorrhea is another widespread STD. When symptoms show up in gonorrhea cases, they are most often the same as for Chlamydia, although they may also include pain in the testicles for men and vaginal bleeding between periods for women. Gonorrhea is particularly serious in women, as it can eventually lead to the development of pelvic inflammatory disease and sometimes causes infertility. Taking antibiotics will cure gonorrhea, but some recent strains are showing resistance. Herpes is another common infection in which blisters or sores develop around the genitals or rectum. There is no cure for herpes, but antiviral medications can reduce the frequency and duration of the outbreaks. Whether they are symptomatic or not, some STDs still remain infectious if they have not been treated.
The cell phone testing devices will probably be sold in much the same way condoms are, at pharmacies, supermarkets, and nightclubs. Patrons will pay perhaps 50p or 1 pound ($.75 - $1.50) and the technology will come right out of a vending machine (maybe located in the restroom of your favorite nightclub…so you can test the special someone you just met). Pretty incredible, considering that this is basically a miniature lab on a computer chip.
Not only does this device eliminate the waiting time for appointments at doctor's offices and provide a virtually instantaneous diagnosis, but it allows people to take charge of their sexual well-being. It will also, one might hope, curb the spread of STDs, considering that people will become aware of any infections much sooner and therefore be able to alert all of their recent and current sexual partners…assuming they actually made note of their names and phone numbers.