Virtual Voices

Got an STD? There's an app for that!

Health

Medical researchers are in the process of developing technology that would allow individuals to test for sexually transmitted diseases using their cell phones. Saliva or urine would be put onto a computer chip, which would then be plugged into a cell phone or computer for an almost-instant diagnosis.

The project, taking place in Britain, grew out of the ever-increasing rates of STD's there, especially among people under 25. The belief is that many of those young people might hesitate to visit a doctor or clinic for testing, but would be willing to do so in private, especially using familiar technology. Developers hope the devices can be sold for as little as the equivalent of one dollar or so, possibly in vending machines.

Dr. Tariq Sadiq, a physician at St. George's University of London who is heading the project, spoke to Britain's Guardian newspaper: "Your mobile phone can be your mobile doctor. It diagnoses whether you've got one of a range of STIs [sexually transmitted infections], such as chlamydia or gonorrhea and tells you where to go next to get treatment."

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It's hard to fault the doctors here, who hope that increased diagnoses will lead to earlier treatment and perhaps slow the epidemic, presuming that patients who find themselves infected will seek treatment and also tell their sexual partners. Nonetheless, it doesn't help until someone's already sick. And let's not forget that some sexually transmitted diseases are not treatable. Period.

More importantly it certainly doesn't begin to address the real problem, which is a culture that teaches young people they have a "right" to have sex, pretty much whenever and with whomever they choose.

How about an all-out campaign, along the lines of the anti-smoking crusades of the 1980s and '90s, spelling out the serious health risks of having sex outside a committed, faithful relationship? Can you spell m-a-r-r-i-a-g-e?

Marcia Segelstein
Marcia Segelstein

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