Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are taboo, there is fear in getting tested and shame in contracting them and people in general know very little about them. Yet, STDs affect millions of people around the world and can devolve into more serious illnesses.
Breaking the stigma and raising awareness
STD’s are common, quite common, the WHO estimates that every day more than 1 million sexually transmitted infections are acquired worldwide, and unfortunately the percentages have been on the rise for years, as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
However, STD’s can not only be treatable but also preventable but often times are left untreated and undetected and develop into severe illness. In a lot of cases, treatment of STDs is as simple as taking antibiotics, but untreated, these diseases can have serious reproductive and health consequences beyond the immediate impact of the infection itself. They can cause infertility, increase the risk of cancer, create complications during birth, among other issues.
Experts suggest that regular checkups and general education on these diseases are key to managing and preventing them.
“Raising awareness about the importance of getting tested represent a huge part of what we are trying to do” explains Siew-Veena, CEO and co-founder of Testmate Health. “A lot of people discover that they have infections when it’s too late: chlamydia and gonorrhoea for example are asymptomatic and a lot of patients learn about these diseases because they are struggling to get pregnant or because it has already affected their fertility.” She continues “It’s great that nowadays there is a growing focus on fertility trackers and these kinds of products. But before all that, we need to do the simple things, check our health and make sure we exclude STDs”.
STDs impact men and women differently
These types of infections affect both men and women. However, women are biologically at a higher risk of contracting STDs due to the thinner and more delicate lining of the vagina which makes it easier for bacteria and viruses to penetrate. Women are also less likely to have symptoms and are at a higher risk of infection-caused infertility, compared to men.
In spite of this, women aren’t always the most proactive in getting checked. Siew-Veena points out that “men are more likely to get tested, because they are more open about these health issues. Women tend to rely on whether their gynaecologists tell them to get tested or not, but they wouldn’t necessarily ask whether to get it done or not. This is why our mission is to break all the barriers and get these tests to the hands of as many people as possible, so that they don’t have to wait for a doctor to suggest it or prescribe it.”
An accessible and easy-to-use solution
The digital transformation of health solutions is here to stay, which means the wide spread dissemination of health tech solutions. Consumers today have widely adopted at home testing for things like identifying allergies, pregnancy, and even genetic test to learn more about their genetic lineage. Testmate Health is looking to position STD health and prevention right at home with rapid, lab-grade molecular diagnostics that enable prompt detection of the four common STDs.
However, taboo around STDs poses a challenge for the startup. They are looking to bring about processes that ensure customer privacy. “A huge part of what we are developing is, say someone test positive, then they need to alert the other people who they’ve been in contact with, but that’s not a very fun phone call that you have to make, so we are also developing an anonymous partner notification tool through the Testmate application” says Siew-Veena.
Testmate is a proud participant of the first Tech4Eva Accelerator Cohort. In June, Testmate was one of the 6 winners of W.A. de Vigier Award winning CHF 100,000 cash prize. To learn more, visit: http://www.testmatehealth.com/