STD Tests: There’s an App for That

A controversial new app helps you obtain and share STD test results

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Hula
Hula

A screenshot of the Hula iPhone app that shares STD test result information

Hula, a new iPhone app, is hoping to help you get lucky…safely.  The app points users to the best STD test centers, can receive their results and can even privately share said results with partners through the app — a process which is of course called “unzipping.”

(And the puns don’t even end there. The app’s called Hula because it helps “get you lei’d,” according to the developers.)

Hula and its light-hearted touch are getting endorsements from some public health experts for promoting STD awareness. An astounding 20 million new STDs are diagnosed in the U.S. every year and costs $16 billion in medical costs annually. The most recent survey in 2008 found that 110 million Americans have STDs or STIs (and many go unreported).  And, fewer students are practicing safe sex. A recent study released by the Sex Information and Education Council of Canada found that nearly 50% of sexually active college students aren’t using condoms.  The CDC estimates that half of new STD infections occur among  Americans ages 15 to 24.

Many young, at-risk Americans don’t know to get tested — let alone where to do so — and even if they do, tracking down results of those tests isn’t easy.   Currently, the model at short-staffed health clinics across the country has been “no news as good news” — a system that causes patients anxiety and makes it impossible to hand evidence of a clean bill of health to a sexual partner. Plus, even patients with positive results aren’t always notified.

Hula’s makers aim to begin to repair this broken system by allowing patients to easily receive, understand and share their test results on their iPhones. Once a lab uploads a user’s raw results to Hula (with the user’s permission), a trained Hula employee translates lab lingo into understandable diagnosis. A “nonreactive” result for a syphilis test shows up as simply “negative” on your app. These results can be messaged to a partner, warning them to get tested or sending them the all-clear without an embarrassing phone call.

But there are of course legal and privacy concerns. Hula helps patients provide the paperwork that gives clinics permission to share their personal medical information, but clinics are still wary. Susan Philip, chair of the board of directors of the National Coalition of STD Directors in San Francisco thought the app was “interesting and provocative,” but legal concerns forced the city to turn down requests from Hula users to receive and forward their information through the app, according to Scientific American. On the user side, some fear that sharing health information on an app can be insecure.

Health experts also worry that the app offers sexually active users a false sense of security. While Hula results are reported with a time stamp, users may acquire an STD between the time they are tested and the time they receive their results. “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,” Patrick Chaulk, acting deputy commissioner for the Baltimore City Health Department Division of Disease Control, told Scientific American. (This would of course be true of paper results too.)

Hula is currently free, though the company hopes to monetize when they become more popular. Given privacy concerns, that may be an uphill battle. But for now, the app is embarking to do something nobody has really done before — make the STD conversation less awkward.

READ MORE: Why Young People Aren’t Practicing Safe Sex

8 comments
AmyWMarsh
AmyWMarsh

Thousands and thousands of Native Hawaiians died from STDs brought by Capt. James Cook and later foreigners. They had no resistance, and there was no way to treat this disease. Families, communities, died horribly. So now Bastani names his app after a cherished, sacred cultural tradition that is important to Native Hawaiians for personal pride, self-esteem, and cultural identity. Horribly offensive cultural appropriation. Native Hawaiians and people who believe in decent respect for other cultures are asking Bastani to change the name of this app. Boycott, and please sign the petition. 

MamaKeikiHulaStacyWeigle
MamaKeikiHulaStacyWeigle

Please, please, please... family, friends, everyone... take a moment to read the threads about this on Mahealani , HawaiiNewsNow's and my Facebook pages (among others outraged) and take action on the company's FB page for the app, as well as get messages of outrage to all the media giving them any attention... They can not use this name for this app. What the company and this app does is NOT related, in any way, form or fashion with hula... Hula is the culture, traditions, ethnicity, heart and soul of Aloha, Hawaiians, many other Pacific Islanders, and Indigeneous People of the world Using the name in this bastardized, disrespectful and intentionally harmful manner is UNACCEPTABLE for any reason. To the CEO, Ramin Bastardizatitani, the use of something so sacred to be related to something that has NOTHING to do with Hula, nor Hawaiians, nor anything RESPECTFUL... It is nothing short of a disgusting and blatant bastardization with IGNORANCE taking something sacred and changing into something that shows nothing but disrespect of a culture, its history, customs, traditions and people. Failing at naming your company, as well as you have failed in doing so... and I can only imagine how badly you will fail at providing any value to anyone!

Also, please stand with us and sign the petition at http://www.change.org/petitions/ramin-bastani-change-the-name-of-the-std-alert-app-hula?share_id=FtgOeCouQM&utm_campaign=autopublish&utm_medium=facebook&utm_source=share_petition&v=control&x=%7Eopen_graph_autopublish_experiment

Kanahele
Kanahele

As a native Hawaiian and hula practitioner, I strongly protest the naming of an app “hula.”  The article states, “its developers say, it helps “get you lei’d. (Also, lest you forget, “horizontal hula” is slang for sex.)”  How dare the developer slander the Kanaka Maoli!  And from what knowledge do you base “’horizontal hula’ is slang for sex”?  ‘Aue!!  There is so much ignorance in this world! 

Those of us in the hula community are outraged at this company’s lack of sensitivity of the cultural boundaries of native Hawaiians and all hula practitioners.  To us, hula is life, hula is sacred.  Hula is the way our ancestors told stories of their gods, the land, the ocean and their people.  The “developers” of this app should do more research before you use a term that greatly offends a people’s cultural beliefs.

AlohaHawaii
AlohaHawaii

I am insulted by the manufacturer's intention of using the name "Hula."  This is an insult to our Hawaiian culture and to our hula which is ancient and has much more depth than what people think of (waving their hips etc.).  The hula is an ancient art of our history and of our place which we hold sacred.  We are diligently teaching our people and practicing this sacred art which takes a life time of learning.  We hold the hula dear to our hearts and spirit.  To say that their reasoning for calling this app hula is because it helps you get lei'd, is absurd.  No where in our hula does this kind of attitude exist.  This is wrong and we as a people who are proud of heritage and culture are hurt and insulted.  Please stop throwing our rich heritage into the garbage!

bobhhelp
bobhhelp

I downed this app from singleswithStds.net.  I think it is useful and it is easy to use.

Erika23
Erika23

Nice, but what about an app that actually teach young people about sexuality and its risks ? An app that tries to offer Sex Education the way it should be: comprehensive, always available and easy to understand? I found out about it recently and maybe it's not the only one of its kind but I must say, despite being 23 and sexually active for the last 5 year I found a lot of things I didn't know or that weren't as clear as I thought....