Here’s a Radical Idea: Easy In-Home STD Tests

When Jordana Gilman was a junior at Cornell University, she was shocked when she found out she had chlamydia. Like many others, she didn’t think contracting an STI was something that could happen to her. “I knew I’d be treating patients for it one day,” says Gilman, now a third-year medical student at the State University of New York Upstate Medical University. “But didn’t think I’d be a patient myself.” After her diagnosis, Gilman started telling her friends and sorority sisters about her experience, inspiring a wave of others to get tested. Since then, Gilman has continued to spread awareness of the importance of regular screenings. “If I can own that experience, then I hope it will illustrate the point that no demographic is immune to STDs and to screen, screen, screen.”

It’s a no-brainer method to prevent cervical cancer and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, but getting regular screenings isn’t always as easy as it seems. Lack of medical insurance, inability to travel to a clinic, and lack of education on the importance of these screenings keep many people from heading to the clinic. Others, such as transgender or nonbinary people, often don’t get screened regularly because they run the risk of being judged, mistreated, or discriminated against by medical providers. Some simply don’t go because it’s an awkward and uncomfortable process.

Eve Medical, a company based in Toronto, hopes to address these barriers with the Eve Kit, an at-home self-collection kit that allows people with cervixes to test themselves for HPV (the virus that causes cervical cancer), gonorrhea, chlamydia, and trichomoniasis from the comfort and privacy of their own homes. Currently running an Indiegogo campaign, the Eve Kit contains a device that allows users to collect a sample using a brush much like what you see at the doctor’s office. Patients then use the provided pre-addressed box, with postage prepaid, to mail the sample to an accredited lab in Toronto. Within a few days, users can access their test results through a secure web portal. If a patient receives positive test results, they can share those results with their preferred physician or get a referral to a physician through Eve Medical. It’s a product Gilman would have appreciated while at Cornell.

“As a busy college student, with exams until 9 p.m. and a health center that closed at 4 p.m., I could have saved a lot of schlepping to student health if I had access to the Eve Kit,” says Gilman. “In addition to that initial test that gave me the diagnosis, I needed to be rescreened a month later to make sure I had been effectively treated, and then I made screening a regular part of my health routine. I [also] wish I had an Eve Kit on hand during those Friday night conversations with my friends when they confessed to inconsistent condom use and promised to go get tested Monday morning. I could have just handed one over, and it would have put all our minds at ease. A huge part of the stress of health screening is waiting for an appointment and waiting for results. The Eve Kit would eliminate half of that.”

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It sounds like the perfect solution, but Nicole Flemmer, a nurse practitioner practicing gynecologic oncology in Seattle, says it’s not that simple. While Flemmer thinks the Eve Kit is a good option for some populations, she has reservations, particularly because people might not seek healthcare if they use self-collected samples. “My concern for the Eve Kit is that if a [patient] is experiencing symptoms and they use the Eve Kit to test for chlamydia and gonorrhea and it comes back negative, they might not be inclined to seek healthcare,” says Flemmer. “The Eve Kit does not test for things such as bacterial vaginosis, yeast vaginitis, or urinary tract infections, [conditions that are not sexually transmitted] that may go undiagnosed if a [patient] uses Eve Kit and is falsely reassured by a negative result.”

Flemmer also says home testing does not solve the problem of access to healthcare because a positive test result will still require a visit to a clinic. For patients with the before-mentioned barriers to healthcare, home screening will only tell them they have infections they can’t get treated. “[The Eve Kit] would be better than no testing at all,” says Flemmer, “but it would be best served by being a collaborative effort between healthcare provider and patient.”

The Eve Medical team.

Violeta Cobo, technical sales representative for Eve Medical, says the company recognizes it has many challenges ahead when it comes to making the Eve Kit as accessible as possible. For starters, the Eve Kit will launch in Canada in the fall of this year with a price tag of 85 Canadian dollars (approximately $64), making it inaccessible to underprivileged populations. However, according to Cobo, launching in the private market is necessary for the initial success of the device. Once the company gets its financial footing, they plan to partner with organizations that can help them make the device accessible to underprivileged populations and to get the product covered by public healthcare. The company is also working with community members in the Toronto area to learn how to make the Eve Kit more accessible to transgender and nonbinary communities, whether that’s through marketing language changes or packaging redesigns.

U.S. residents will have to wait a little longer to try out the Eve Kit, however. While the device will be available to Canadian residents this fall, the company is currently working toward getting approval from the Food and Drug Administration so the device can be sold in the United States.

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by Mika Doyle
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Mika Doyle writes about gender, rape culture, trauma, sex and relationships. She’s a sexual assault survivor, yoga newbie and coffee addict. She’s also (not at all abnormally) obsessed with puppies. Follow her on twitter @mikadoyle.

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