America is doing a poor job of getting its youth tested for HIV, but one of the solutions may be found in social media apps. As Tim Lahey, MD, writes in the New York Times’ Well Blog, a variety of mobile apps exist to connect young people to HIV testing services.
A company called Healthvana, for example, created a free iPhone app that uses GPS technology to help users locate a nearby testing site. It also delivers the test results. In fact, the company’s CEO, Ramin Bastiani, says it has delivered more than 200,000 results of tests for HIV and sexually transmitted infections.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services also offers an app to locate testing sites. And another company has an app to help folks locate the nearest condoms.
Karen Rayne, a sexual health educator and author, tells the Times that mobile apps may help young people access testing because they offer privacy and can be deleted. “It’s hard for teenagers to physically go places and to know that they will be welcomed,” she says, adding that the apps are a great way to “draw teens out” and “give them the confidence to access a public physical space,” such as a testing site.
In 31 states, youth under 18 have legal access to HIV testing without parental notification.
This is an important demographic to reach because, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 22 percent of sexually active high school students have been tested for HIV, and about 10,000 people ages 13 to 24 are diagnosed with the virus each year.