With the increasing rates of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in Florida and across the US, at-home testing is suddenly gaining wider public acceptance.
About two years ago, two entrepreneurs (Ursula Hassenflew and Lora Ivanova) recognizing that more of the dating population is moving online, launched a company called myLAB Box, the first and only nationwide at-home STD testing service. Currently the company offers testing for chlamydia, gonorrhea, trichomoniasis and HIV (HIV test is FDA approved Home Access HIV-1 Test System).
For many who don’t have time for an office visit or who may feel some embarrassment about having an STD diagnosis on their medical record, home testing allows self-collection of samples in the privacy of one’s home.
A 2015 analysis of 21 studies published online found that self-collection is generally as accurate and sometimes even superior to samples collected by health professionals.
In a phone interview yesterday, co-founder Lora Ivanova stated that the at-home testing service allows individuals to take control of their sexual health. Because as many as 80 percent of people with an STD may not show symptoms and some STDs may have extended incubation periods as long as 6 months during which an infection may not be detected, individuals engaging in intimate sex with multiple partners should be tested frequently. “myLAB Box offers a convenient alternative for sexually active individuals who either want to be tested once or who might wish to be tested more frequently.” According to Ivanona, myLAB Box has gained popularity with a large diverse customer base from sexually active young adults aged 18 to 25 to seniors, some of whom are just getting back into the dating scene due to divorce or death of a spouse.
In the same interview, Medical Director, Dr. Gary Richwald, former Director and Chief Physician of the LA County Department of Health, STD branch said the kits are easy to use. He described myLAB Box’s procedures as “gentle and educational”. One month ago the company added extragenital testing as an option. Dr. Richwald explained that if an individual has a gonorrhea or chlamydia infection in the throat or anal area, there is a 30 percent chance their infection will be missed if testing is done only with specimens from tradtional sites (from the vagina or penis).
Cost of test kits range from $79 for chlamydia and gonorrhea to $285 for the comprehensive “uber all around” box which includes testing for HIV, trichomoniasis and 3-site chlamydia and gonorrhea. After mailing in the urine, swab or tiny blood sample, online lab-certified results are delivered within 2 to 5 days.
State law here in Florida requires that all positive test results for chlamydia, gonorrhea or trichomoniasis are reported to the Florida Department of Health so the data can be used to track the prevalence of new infections and for necessary public health follow-up. However, Ivanova stated that the company does not report results to insurance providers, physicians or any other outside entity. There is no risk a user’s health records will show that they were tested or how often they’ve been tested. According to the myLAB Box website, only the person tested can access his or her specific results. In the case of HIV, no reporting is linked to any of their information.
If an individual tests positive for chlamydia, gonorrhea or trichomoniasis and doesn’t want to go to their personal physician for treatment, myLAB Box offers a complimentary phone consultation with an affiliated physician who will evaluate the need for treatment. Depending on symptoms, the doctor may be able to send a prescription to a local pharmacy.Customers who test positive for HIV are encouraged to seek evaluation and treatment from their personal physician.
Dr. Richwald emphasized that at-home testing does not replace the need for an annual visit to a primary care doctor which is covered under most health insurance plans today.