Here at Planned Parenthood we dream a lot about "what if" situations because, well, we're optimistic. This month the world we're dreaming of is one where talking about sexually transmitted diseases will be a stigma-free, comfortable, and easy situation for everyone involved. After all, more than half of us will get an STD over the course of our lives, and getting tested is encouraged by healthcare providers even if you feel fine.
In the meantime, some innovators are coming up with creative solutions to share your status with past, current, and future partners. Some are as simple as finding you a way to access help and tips for talking to your partners about STDs. Others are trying to create social networks based on diagnosing and sharing the information to potential and former partners.
We rounded up a few new solutions in honor of GYT (Get Yourself Tested) 2014:
So They Can Know
So They Can Know is an easy-to-navigate website that helps you figure out how to speak with partners past and present about STDs and testing. It's filled with information, tips, even scripts you can use if you're feeling nervous about the discussion. It also provides descriptions and symptoms of various STDs so you can figure out if you should be getting tested sooner rather than later.
Hula, formerly known as Qpid.me, is a social networking app that allows users to both find ways to get tested as well as discretely share information with specific people (like potential or former partners). While Hula has been under fire for offending just about every person in Hawaii (traditional hula is considered sacred, so the name combined with taglines like "it helps you get lei'd" understandably made people unhappy) the CEO seems to be working on making the app friendly and inoffensive to tradition while keeping up the good work of promoting STD awareness.
STD Triage is an app that lets you take a picture of anything you think might be an STD that is then send to a team of expert dermatologists. For about $40 (it's based in Sweden but it's international!), you can get a response about what it might be within 24 hours. For a lot of people, visiting a doctor's office might be easier (even cheaper!), but it's a good app to have in your pocket just in case.
New offline practices
Beyond social media or online resources, a growing practice for health departments is to offer to call a patient's former partners and recommend they get tested, keeping the patient's anonymity intact. NPR wrote a piece on the practice, and we'd love to see more health departments, clinics, and hospitals facilitate this communication when the patient is too uncomfortable to do so. Better to go the extra mile for public health than to keep people in the dark.
These are just the first wave of apps, websites, and services being designed for the express purpose of making the act of sharing STD information easier, less embarrassing, and less stigmatized. We can't wait to see what's next.
Planned Parenthood accepts insurance and has payment options to meet everyone's needs. Low- to no-cost STD testing and treatment is available to eligible men and women. Learn more about low- to no-cost STD testing and treatment.
LAUREN MACK, SOCIAL MEDIA AND COMMUNICATIONS ASSISTANT