So my cell phone says, "Dude, you've got herpes!"
Mobile phones and computers will soon be able to diagnose sexually transmitted diseases under innovative plans to cut the UK's rising rate of herpes, chlamydia and gonorrhoea among young people.
Doctors and technology experts are developing small devices, similar to pregnancy testing kits, that will tell someone quickly and privately if they have caught an infection through sexual contact.
People who suspect they have been infected will be able to put urine or saliva on to a computer chip about the size of a USB chip, plug it into their phone or computer and receive a diagnosis within minutes, telling them which, if any, sexually transmitted infection (STI) they have. Seven funders, including the Medical Research Council, have put £4m into developing the technology via a forum called the UK Clinical Research Collaboration.
Sexual health experts hope it will help reduce the growing number of STIs, which have increased for the last decade and reached a record 482,696 last year. Two-thirds of women reporting a new STI were under 25, as were more than half of men.
The self-testing devices are aimed at technology-savvy young people. Public health experts are concerned that, although most STIs occur among that age group, many are too embarrassed to visit a GP or a genito-urinary medicine clinic to get tested and therefore continue to suffer and potentially pass the disease on. Doctors hope that the ability to obtain a private, confidential diagnosis will overcome their widespread reluctance to take a test.
The developers of the rapid testing devices expect them to be sold for as little as 50p or £1 each in vending machines in nightclubs, pharmacies and in supermarkets, as condoms are.