Los Angeles-based myLAB Box is the first nationwide testing service for STDs, which are at an all-time high in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The increase in STDs mirrors the growing popularity of dating apps among millennials. Some experts believe this casual dating and hookup culture has a dark side.
Marin County OB/GYN Dr. Lizellen La Follette says California is seeing an alarming jump in new cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis.
One main reason is fewer millennials are practicing safe sex. They are not using condoms and the reasons are puzzling, according to La Follette,
“They connect online, they meet, they may be mutually monogamous for a brief period of time and then they move on,” she said. “And I think that whole interaction comes with the consequences of transmission.”
myLAB Box has positioned itself as the online remedy to the problems linked to online dating.
“No longer do you have to suffer through the embarrassment or awkward conversations with clinicians or your doctor about your sexual health,” said myLAB Box CEO Ursula Hessenflow.
Everything can be done online: from ordering the test, to a free phone consultation with a medical doctor, as well as getting a prescription phoned into your pharmacy.
Hessenflow recently brought the test and the idea to the Vator Splash tech conference at San Francisco’s Fort Mason. She explained that, since millennials tend to live their lives online, an online STD infection service seems natural.
“What we’ve done is taken those same tools, and made it very easy for someone to test at home privately, affordably conveniently on their own time,” said Hessenflow.
Customers can order up to 15 different STD tests online and within days a package arrives in the mail. Tests use a swab, urine sample or blood prick.
“It’s very simple,” said Hessenflow. “So, it averages five minutes or less to test.”
The samples are mailed back in the self-addressed envelope provided and the lab-certified results are sent electronically within a few days.
“If there is a positive, we immediately connect you with a phone consult with a local physician and with common infections they can give you a same-day prescription,” said Hessenflow.
San Francisco residents Alexandra Daigle and her partner Erik Kahn love the idea. “If someone wants to be secretive about it they can order it at home and they don’t have to wait at a doctor’s office for hours and hours,” said Daigle.
“It’s really expensive to live here. So, you know, one of the options for us is working more. We’re working almost seven days a week,” explained Kahn. “So for us, it can be great just to have that option of not having to take off work.”
La Follette sees the benefit but is also concerned about a revolving door of infection. “Positive test. Treated. Positive test. Treated. Right. So where’s the connection?” she mused.
La Follette says millennials need to hook up with a doctor to come up with long-term plan not to get infected. She noted some STDs are life-threatening. Others can leave you infertile.
“How are we going to protect you when you come to me at 38 and I want my first baby and you can’t get pregnant?,” said La Follette.
Hessenflow said the doctor consultation included with the service usually includes discussion of safe-sex practices as well as a recommendation to follow up with your personal physician.
The cost depends on how many tests you are going to order. It ranges from $79 to the deluxe “Love Box” which costs about $500 and will test both you and your partner. Gift certificates are available and the service accepts FSA/HSA cards.