A new STI app has been created, which shows users where to find the nearest sexual health centres, allows them to download their results. It also notifies other people who might be at risk of a sexually transmitted infection.
The app follows in the footsteps of electronic based services such as Don’t Spread It which anonymously notifies others who may be at risk after a sexual partner's positive result.
Hula advertises itself as “a free way to find STD testing, get the results on your phone and share your verified STD status”.
It provides a variety of tools relating to sexual health, such as the address of a person’s nearest sexual health centre and what services can be found there.
As well as collecting the STI test results, where they can be accessed on screen, and interpret them to make test results more understandable. If the user gives permission, raw lab results can be uploaded to Hula from the clinic, where a Hula employee would then interpret results into an accessible format. For example, a ‘nonreactive’ syphilis result would instead by translated as a ‘negative’ result.
The app also allows the person to ‘friend’ another user, so the friend can securely see the results on their device.
Hula users can even review STD testing centres with reviews about their experiences, according to Scientific American.
The app will send out messages reminding the user to have regular check-ups, which the makers claim will promote further testing.
Jeffrey Klausner, medical advisor to Hula, told Scientific American that Hula could act as an important public health tool in America. He said: “When you are thinking about the millions of people in the US who have infections and don’t know it, an effort that will promote easier screening and change the way people deal with test results is going to help.”
Hula are also looking to reduce the risks to sexual health that can potentially be involved for those who meet through online dating apps. Hula announced last month they would be partnering with MISTER, an app for gay men showing other gay men in different locations.
MISTER is advertising the Hula service on its app and encouraging users to tap it to get information from local testing centres and test results. MISTER is also encouraging users to link to Hula from within their profiles, making their test results available to online friends.
However, public health bodies have voiced concerns that while Hula is a useful tool for STI testing, it may give the individual's sex partner a false sense of security because the person could have contracted a disease after their negative result.
Patrick Chaulk, acting deputy commissioner for the Baltimore City Health Department Division of Disease Control said: “It’s an innovative concept and it’s targeting the right age, but my concern is it gives the suggestion that you are [STD-] negative".
“The message we want people to take is we definitely want people to get tested but not to take [good results] as a carte blanche to do anything they want.”