Access Matters, a Philadelphia nonprofit organization focused on sexual health and education in the city's high schools, will be launching a new sex ed app called It Matters in Fall 2015. The app will feature accessible and understandable information about STDs and sexual/reproductive health. Additionally, the app will let users ask experts specific, anonymous questions through the app, as well as help them locate nearby clinics.
It Matters will provide specific information useful for people of all genders, and "will be inclusive for LGBTQ health concerns as well." It is all too common for sexual education programs to remain heteronormative and ignore important information specific to queer folks, and this lack of comprehensive sex education negatively impacts LGBTQ-identfied youth in numerous ways, including higher rates of unplanned teen pregnancy. Access Matters hopes that parents will also download the app as a resource to demystify potentially awkward conversations with their kids about sex. The app comes at a time when the rates of HIV and STDs among Philadelphia teenagers have increased — a statistic that was first noticed by the Philadelphia Department of Public Health in 2010. Chlamydia and gonorrhea rates among 15-19 year old teens in the city are 3.5 and 3 times the national rate for that age group, respectively. For rates of chlamydia and gonorrhea among 10-14 year old kids in the city, the Philadelphia population reveals rates that are 5.3 and 4 times higher than the national rate for that age group, respectively. While instances of youth STD transmission increases, condom usage declines. Access Matters currently combats these sexual health issues by establishing health resource centers at 13 Philly high schools that each provide condoms, education, confidential counseling, and medical referrals, but it is their hope that an app will further their mission to improve youth sexual health and knowledge. Brian Green, the Director of Programs and Development for Access Matters, told NBC Philadelphia, "It's a matter of meeting youth where they are — on their phones."It Matters is not the first app seeking to expand sex education and health care access. Let's take a look at a few more revolutionary programs at our fingertips:
Developed by University of Tennessee graduates, Hookup is an app also launching in the fall of 2015. Users can ask experts and volunteers anonymous questions about sexual health and sexuality without fear of embarrassment. Their official website explains that one of Hookup's goals is to become the alternative to Google when it comes to seeking sex information. Not only do they aim to do this through their personal Q&A format, but also with educational games, a digital library of health and how-to information, and a nearby health clinics locator.
2. My Sex Doctor
My Sex Doctor is a sex ed app useful for both young teens and adults, featuring a sex dictionary and a 100 Things You Must Know list with topics ranging from puberty and menstruation, to sexual orientation, safe sex, pregnancy, and contraceptives. Similarly, their sex ed dictionary provides definitions from acne, to abortion, to acquaintance rape. You can also search My Sex Doctor's information by selecting a topic. Their topics include fun relationship advice about flirting, as well as more serious topics such as unhealthy relationships. My Sex Doctor's mission is "to become the main reference point for teenagers and young adults seeking information about puberty, relationships, and sex. A trusted companion that young people can carry with them and access at all times." You can select your version of My Sex Doctor based on your age; My Sex Doctor Lite is ideal for users age 12+, while My Sex Doctor is ideal for users 17+.
SexPositive is a shame-free, progressive, and comprehensive sex ed app specifically meant for college students. The official website describes SexPositive as providing "judgement-free information about sexually transmitted infections (STIs), safer sex practices, communication tips and healthy advice, ...[all] available on your smartphone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week." And, hence the name, it delivers all information through a sex positive lens. The app also includes a special focus on affirmative consent and communication between sexual partners, because "it's not enough to tell people not to rape." Developed by the University of Oregon Health Center, the app features specific resources that can be utilized by students on the University of Oregon, University of Colorado-Boulder, and University of Maryland campuses. It has been download 36, 131 times so far!
4. Planned Parenthood Direct
Planned Parenthood Direct is a free app that California residents can use to test themselves for chlamydia and gonorrhea in the privacy of their own homes. For $149, users can order lab kits through the app, which will then arrive (in discrete packaging) at their doorstep in two - four business days. The delivery will include instructions for completing a urine test and sending it back to a Planned Parenthood lab. Once the lab has tested your sample, the results of your test will be privately sent back through the app, complete with treatment instructions should you test positive. Planned Parenthood Direct can also send a prescription to your pharmacy in case your treatment requires antibiotics. Hopefully, increased access to private and convenient STD testing will extend beyond California soon!
Also only available to women living in California (as of now), PolkaDoc is a free app that allows women to obtain $15 birth control pill prescriptions anywhere, anytime, without ever visiting a doctor's office. Through an eVisit, women, regardless of health insurance or immigration status, are able to receive screenings and recommendations for the right pill for them. PolkaDoc removes many economic and logistical barriers that typically deny women access to reproductive health choices. Let's hope that we can soon find this in all 50 states!