One New York City-based startup is hoping that its new service will not only take away the inconvenience and discomfort that comes with being tested for STDs or HIV, but also help reduce the transmission of disease in the long run.
Mately aims to offer individuals a new method to be tested for sexually transmitted diseases right in the comfort of their homes and as often as they believe is necessary.
The service will also give users the ability to privately share results electronically with potential romantic partners either through Mately or via dating apps.
As part of Mately’s campaign to get the word out on helping “take STD testing out of the Stone Age,” the company has featured what it calls edgy takes on the issue, including several featuring gay men discussing their tests and another using "Sesame Street" characters, Bert and Ernie, whose close friendship led to claims they were a couple.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are 20 million new sexually transmitted infections in the United States each year. And even with a number that high, a large group of individuals do not go see their doctors, often due to either the stigma of being tested for sexually transmitted diseases or simply because they do not have the time.
“We see thousands of people a year that get STD testing, we are just scratching the surface,” said Dr. Jake Deutsch, owner of Cure Urgent Care NYC.
Deutsch added that something like Mately allows services to reach individuals who usually will opt out of heading to their doctor to get tested and will open the door for early detection of any disease.
And along with offering people a quick and easy way to be tested, Mately will also give users any additional support they need if tests come up positive for either HIV or another STD.
“We want to make it easier for people to get tested but if we can see a change in disease then I really think that the value is really much greater,” Deutsch said. “It will change the standard that people interact and hopefully, and ultimately most important, it will help reduce disease.”
The way the service works is users create an account on the Mately website to become a member and then they upload three photos of themselves to their profile. As part of this process, users select how frequently they want to receive test kits and, along with HIV testing – which is required for members – if they want additional STD testing for diseases such as syphilis or gonorrhea.
To complete the joining process, users then head to a participating pharmacy to have their identity verified and to provide a DNA sample through a swab of saliva to confirm that your sample is your own.
Once the users receive a kit — either via mail or at the pharmacy — they complete a dried blood spot collection and a urine sample. The kit is then mailed back to Mately and will be tested via a lab for undetectable and recently-contracted HIV infection, in addition to any option add-ons.
Results are then sent electronically to users via the Mately app.
For Brandon Greenberg, CEO and founder of Mately, the mission behind the service is to make testing easier for users while also encouraging individuals to get tested on a regular basis.
He added that the conversation of providing a more convenient way for individuals to get tested has been happening but there have been no businesses or products to respond to the need.
“It’s just an obvious idea that should have been done a while ago,” Greenberg said.
Along with giving people the convenience of being tested as often as they want, Mately also allows users to receive their results online through which they can then share with others privately via dating apps. Mately will also partner with dating sites to provide Mately members with badges so others can know that they are part of the service and can open a dialogue without the discomfort.
“I don’t think people should have to go through interrogation to build chemistry with someone,” Greenberg said.
Currently, Mately has started an Indiegogo campaign to get a feel of how people are reacting to the service and to allow individuals to register in advance.
Even if the $500,000 goal is not raised, the plan is to still get Mately fully running by the start of 2017.