myLAB Box, a healthcare company based in California, has developed and pioneered an at-home sexually transmitted disease (STD) testing service. With the number of STDs rising, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that nearly 20 million new STDs occur annually in the US, and half of these are in people aged 15 to 24.
STDs are often symptomless, but can have significant consequences. For instance, an estimated 24,000 women become infertile every year because of undiagnosed STDs. An estimated 80% of sexually active people will have a human papillomavirus (HPV) infection at some point in their lives, and HPV causes approximately 31,500 cases of cancer each year.
Regular testing can help prevent the spread of STDs, but unfortunately many people skip these tests, largely because of stigma, cost, or time. In fact, although half of new STD cases occur in young people, only 12% of such people were tested within the last year.
myLAB Box aims to overcome these hurdles by providing at-home testing kits that allow people to discreetly test for STDs on their own time and in the comfort and privacy of their own home. Users can then get a free telephone medical consultation if they receive positive test results, giving privacy and providing useful advice and how to move to the next steps. The company claims that it takes just five minutes to perform the test, and then users will receive their lab-certified test results within five days.
Medgadget asked Lora Ivanova, Co-Founder and CEO at myLAB Box, some questions about the concept.
Conn Hastings, Medgadget: Please give us some background on the scale of the STD issue, and the consequences that undiagnosed STDs can have.
Lora Ivanova, myLAB Box: The STD crisis in the United States is not receiving the attention that it should. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention tallied nearly 2.3 million cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis in 2017 – an increase of more than 200,000 cases over the previous year – and a record high. In fact, rates have continued to rise over the past four years despite efforts to educate people on the importance of regular testing.
If STDs are left untreated, many easily curable infections such as chlamydia, gonorrhea and bacterial vaginosis can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease in women and infertility in both men and women, as well as other serious health complications. Since these infections are common, it is recommended that sexually active individuals get tested for them on a regular basis to prevent unknowingly infecting a partner, potentially endangering pregnancy and developing long-term or even fatal health consequences.
Discussing sexual health with your partners can be an awkward conversation to have. By delivering tests to your mailbox, we’ve helped remove a mental barrier preventing you from getting tested while making screening more convenient and accessible
Medgadget: Why are STDs on the rise? Are rates of detection and treatment also increasing?
Lora Ivanova: A driving factor for this rise in rates is that people are simply avoiding STD testing in the first place. Failure to stem these infections includes lack of sex education, cost, the inconvenience of driving to a lab, clinic or doctor’s office, and the taboo that this topic still carries.
There are many misconceptions when it comes to contracting and detecting STDs. More than 80% of infections are asymptomatic and can mimic the common flu or headaches. Many also believe that STDs can be avoided by having oral or anal sex, though the reality is that where there is sex, there can be STDs. It is not just the sexually promiscuous who are at risk.
The new ways that we find our partners is also a factor. The popularity of online dating means that people are engaging with others far outside their natural social circles, and disease follows. Research has found that those who found their partners online are three times more likely to contract an STD than those who did so the old-fashioned way.
Funding cuts and the changing insurance landscape have also been affecting public-health centers and STD-prevention-and-treatment programs throughout the United States in recent years. Due to cuts, many of these initiatives have decreased their staffing and hours, sometimes closing altogether, making STD detection and treatment more difficult.
Lastly, condoms are falling out of favor as the birth control method of choice. The CDC found that 24 percent of women and 34 percent of men said they’d used condoms during their last sexual intercourse, with 55 to 60 percent of both groups stating that condoms were their only form of contraception. These statistics are disheartening since condoms, while not perfect, can help prevent many different types of STDs. PrEP, a pill to protect people from the AIDS virus, may also be lulling people into a false sense of security as condom usage declines. While a serious infection, HIV is not as common as other forms of STDs which are preventable with condoms.
Medgadget: What components are included in the myLAB Box test kit, and is the test difficult, invasive, or time-consuming?
Lora Ivanova: We work with the top sexual health experts and testing facilities in the U.S. to bring STD screening to your doorstep in a discreet package. Tests can be self-administered in as little as 5 minutes. Simply mail in a small bio sample (urine, swab or tiny finger prick) in the pre-addressed envelope provided and receive lab-certified results back electronically in a matter of days. We make it that easy!
The process is very simple:
- Order Online – No need to go to a lab or book appointments.
- Test at Home – Collect and mail your sample in under 5 minutes.
- Get Results – Results are as accurate as those obtained in clinics.
- Free Consultations – Same-day physician phone consultations for positives.
Medgadget: What STDs can the kit detect? Is the accuracy of the kit comparable to conventional STD testing?
Lora Ivanova: myLAB Box offers the most comprehensive at-home STD screening platform on the market, featuring tests for 15 sexual health infections.
All tests are validated by myLAB Box clinical laboratory affiliates and results are comparable to samples collected in a physician’s office or clinical laboratory.
Medgadget: What happens if someone tests positive? Does myLAB Box refer them to a local doctor if prescription medication is required?
Lora Ivanova: All who test positive using the myLAB Box service are entitled to a complimentary phone consultation with a myLAB Box medical affiliate to be evaluated for the treatment of chlamydia, gonorrhea and trich. Depending on your symptoms at the time of consultation, the physician may be able to send a prescription to the pharmacy of your choosing immediately, dramatically shortening the time it takes to test and treat and minimizing the chance for complications or infecting others. All myLAB Box test results are lab-certified so you can also take them to your personal physician or clinic for treatment if you prefer.
Medgadget: How has the kit been received by users so far?
Lora Ivanova: Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Many of our customers are busy professionals who appreciate the convenience and time saved by being able to order a test online and take it from the comfort and privacy of their home. Others appreciate the peace of mind. Whether male or female, gay or straight, young or old, myLAB Box customers are diverse, from all walks of life, and want to take control of their sexual health.
From affordable screening to complimentary physician consultations for positives, every aspect of the myLAB Box service is designed to be something a user can easily handle out-of-pocket. The recent shake-up of our healthcare systems further deepens our resolve to grow our offering and develop a new hassle-free lab testing model. We believe this is not just great business, but a much-needed resource to curb a widespread epidemic.
Link: myLAB Box…