Sexual health, delivered.
tabú is excited to partner with an innovative company that makes STD testing accessible and convenient for all of us lazy (ahem, efficient 😉) millennials out there. With today being World AIDS Day, it is important to remember the importance of championing your sexual health by getting tested! An estimated 1.2 million people in the US are living with HIV and 1 in 8 don't know it! C'mon guys - let's get it together. Getting tested is so easy! You can do it at most college campus health centers/clinics, any Planned Parenthood, and most general practice doctor's offices. Better yet, now you can even do it at home! We talked to the CEO and Co-Founder of myLAB Box, Ursula Hessenflow, about the need for STD testing, and the future of self-healthcare.
What inspired you to start myLAB Box?
My inspiration for myLAB Box came through a conversation over coffee with my co-founder, Lora Ivanova.
Three years ago, I re-entered the dating world after being recently divorced. I was soon shocked by how infrequently people seemed to get tested for sexually transmitted infections. The common argument was: “I never get tested because my partners always looked safe.” Knowing that many STDs show little to no visible symptoms, this was disconcerting for me.
I’m very health-conscious, so I was doubly worried when my doctors who declared that “I didn’t look at-risk” when I asked to be tested proactively. A mature discussion about sexual health seemed practically impossible. Lora felt the same way, so we started looking into developing a solution.
It became clear to me that our culture and the existing health care system needed a vast transformation, especially around the topic of sexual health. This led us to co-found myLAB Box.
What is the most common misconception about STDs/STI testing? What do you believe is the biggest barrier to people getting tested?
There are a lot of misconceptions about STD testing. The most frequent one I’ve heard is that many people believe that proper testing can only be performed in a lab. This simply isn’t true.
At myLAB Box, our diagnostic test results are lab-certified, meaning that our users receive diagnostic results with the same accuracy as what you’d receive from a doctor’s office or clinic.
As for barriers, one of the biggest reasons that people use to avoid getting testing is “the stigma.” Many men and women are simply too nervous to go to a doctor or clinic. They’re afraid of seeing someone they know. Others would rather live with an infection than to sit face-to-face with a doctor and need to answer specific questions about their sexual history.
Early detection is the key to minimizing potentially serious health consequences and saving lives.
If a customer does test positive for an infection, they can get instant peace of mind with a free same-day phone consultation with a doctor who can prescribe treatment immediately. myLAB Box customers can get tested, speak with a doctor and get a prescription all without ever stepping outside!
The service is designed to eliminate the shame and stigma that stops people from getting tested in the first place. myLAB Box is the first company to offer a nationwide at-home screening platform for STDs. Our service is designed to fit every lifestyle, putting our users in total control of their own health.
What challenges have you faced building a healthcare company focused on a sexual health issue?
There have definitely been some roadblocks to building a healthcare focused company. A lot of medical professionals tend to be standoffish about new ideas. I can certainly understand that. No one wants to get sued or accidentally back the wrong approach. Especially if those ideas are a radically different approach. This technological revolution is changing things, and not everyone is happy about that.
Fortunately, there are a lot of medical professionals that are embracing these ideas. myLAB Box’s model is sound because of the strong bonds we’ve created with medical professionals. As we expand, we’ve been able to forge a truly safe, lab-certified approach that satisfies the needs of both our customers and the greater medical industry.
What is the most surprising thing you have learned about STDs/STD testing? What about sexual health in general?
Obviously we’ve run into a lot of surprising facts about STDs.
For example, 50% of the people in our country alone will contract an STI in their lifetime. This is especially true among women under 30.
This number is poised to further increase as online dating apps and other opportunities to hook up become increasingly popular.
The surprising bit is that a “standard” STD test might not be able to catch everything. Depending on a user’s lifestyle, an “extragenital” test may be needed to properly screen the throat and rectal regions. In fact, a 2015 Johns Hopkins study of extragenital testing showed a shockingly large amount of undiagnosed cases of gonorrhea and chlamydia in women. These infections would have gone undetected if not for the extra screenings in these locations.
To combat this, myLAB Box allows for extragenital testing. This is an area where myLAB Box is ahead of many traditional testing clinics. Typical STD exams from a clinic will only check the genital area, but ignore rectal and oral screening. This leaves a major portion of the population untested unless they specifically request it. myLAB Box’s extragenital testing initiative is helping all sexually-active adults to take complete control of their health by testing for oral and anal infections, a step that many traditional screening services are lacking.
What three things should every entrepreneur know/do?
As an entrepreneur, I’ve learned that the world will always try to fit you and your ideas into a specific box.
The biggest piece of advice I could give to any prospective entrepreneur is to stop listening to those voices. Instead, build the box that fits you and your dreams.
Create your own brand new box and share it with the world. Focus on telling your story, sharing your vision and inspiring, not trying to conform to expectations. A true visionary is the one who sees the opportunity before all others. If you have a unique idea, then there shouldn’t necessarily be a box yet! Embrace your passions and good luck on your journey of self-discovery and innovation.
Second, I always make sure to take a few moments for myself every morning. I take time to get centered on what my intentions are for the day. I ask myself focused, actionable questions like, ‘What are the bigger outcomes that I want to see happen on this fine day?’ This helps me develop a concise, realistic ‘to do’ list. Then I spend the rest of the day making it a reality.
As for my final piece of advice, I’d say “try to get as much sleep as possible.” It’s more important than you might think!
What drives you/keeps you up at night?
I’m proud to be part of a strong women-led company. It’s been a fascinating time for female entrepreneurs. We have more of a voice in the medical industry than ever before… and that feels like a great responsibility.
The medical industry has held fast to a lot of stagnant ideas for far too long. But we are making steady progress. The involvement of brilliant minds from diverse backgrounds and world views have a chance to change the status quo. It has provided many new ways to see the world of medicine.
I love the way this industry is changing and I’m driven to make myLAB Box a powerful voice for the future of self-healthcare. With the proper tools, this will lead to a healthier population and better information for doctors to work with.
What is your vision for myLab Box?
myLAB Box sees an opportunity to transform preventative STD screening with a simple service offering a first line of defense. My vision is to empower men and women to take back control of their sexual health and feel good about taking care of themselves and their partners.
With myLAB Box, I hope to open up communication about STD testing with a positive approach and remove the fear, awkwardness and hassle, so everyone can enjoy peace of mind about their health.
To learn more about STIs and getting tested, check out our STI Basic! Thanks, Ursula, for making the world a more informed and healthy place!
tabú connects young adults with trustworthy and engaging answers to their sex ed questions by connecting them to certified health experts and peer to peer support.