Column – Cell phones to tell lazy people they have STDs

November 15, 2010 — Leave a comment

Originally published in The Daily Toreador.

According to our European chums across the pond at The Guardian, there are currently people hard at work developing a small device that you can pee (or spit) on, plug into your computer or phone, and have it tell you whether or not you’re infected with a sexually transmitted disease.

Friends, we are living in the future. It’s kind of a scary future, but it’s the future nonetheless. Worried you might have herpes? There’s an app for that.

The experts behind this new technology hope that it will drastically decrease the spread of STDs among the world’s youth. This is definitely a noble goal, and one that addresses an issue that seems more pressing every day.

They are developing this private, technology-centric STD test because they feel the need to cater to today’s “technology-savvy young people,” as most STDs are found among that age group – at least in the U.K.; I don’t know about here in the U.S. This tells me that teens and young adults today are not only too embarrassed to go see a doctor when they think they might have screwed up, they also, well, screw up a lot.

Technology blog Gizmodo reports that the people behind this technology hope to make the testing chips – which are said to be about the size of a USB dongle – cost as little as a dollar, and they hope it can be widely available, from vending machines to drug stores. As the website points out, these are the same places where somebody could buy themselves a little protection and not have to worry so much about getting an STD in the first place.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not entirely against the idea of this technology. And let’s face it, with Lubbock being fairly notorious for its “Raider rash,” some of us could probably use all the help we can get. It just amazes me that we have come to methods such as this.

Sure, it’s extremely easy to point fingers at so-called conservative teaching methods and religious-influenced abstinence-only sex education in public schools. I’m sure there’s definitely some blame to be spread in that direction. However, we also have to wonder where the crap common sense went these days.

Obviously there are a lot of idiots out there that don’t keep a condom on them for “emergencies.” This isn’t a revelation for most of you, though it’s still a really bad thing. What’s crazy to me are the people who would rather have their smart phone diagnose them with a potentially life-altering disease than visit a trained physician.

Oh, I’m sure there are excuses. You hate clinics, you don’t have insurance, you’re 16 and don’t want anyone – least of all your parents – to know you slept with a girl or six … I hate to be callous, but you should have thought of that stuff before you had the unprotected sex.

The no insurance excuse is at least a little understandable to me, but still, if your phone does tell you that you’ve contracted an STD, the next thing it’s going to do is refer you to a doctor for treatment. So you’re in the same boat either way.

The only thing this technology might save some people is time, assuming your worry about having a disease was a false alarm.

And while I’m sure there are plenty of noble people out there who would stop having so much sex – or at least start being a lot more careful – when they find out they have an STD, I have to imagine there are still plenty of people that wouldn’t care enough to change their lifestyle, which helps absolutely nobody.

Now, I don’t think this mobile STD tester is necessarily a bad idea, and the cause is certainly a good one. However, this really feels like a potentially flawed attempt to treat a symptom rather than the disease – or even the rest of the symptoms.

Proper sex education could be a step in the right direction, yes. Higher condom availability could be another. And raising STD awareness definitely needs to happen. And maybe I’m wrong about this phone test and it will be a tremendous help – I wouldn’t mind if I am.

But I wish we could develop an app that would inject some common sense and maturity in most of today’s young adults. That would solve a lot more than just the spread of STDs.

Britton Peele


Freelance video game critic for sites like GameSpot and GamesRadar. Amateur fantasy author.

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