#SWAAYthenarrative

MyLab: The At-Home STD Testing Kit Offering Hassle-free Results

Business

Developed in 2013 by Lora Ivanova and Ursula Hessenflow, myLAB Box is the first-of-its kind service that delivers STD test right to the customer’s doorstep. Their kits utilize FDA-approved technology, and are validated by CLIA-certified lab affiliates, who all have decades of testing for infectious diseases. The panel includes 9 tests that directly identify pathogens through advanced DNA amplification technology, and four tests that measure antibodies. Each test can be completed in less than five minutes, sans the need to drive, schedule appointments, or wait in interminable lines at the doctor’s. MyLAB Box kits range from $79 for a single test, to $399 for a 10-panel screen, and boast the same diagnostic accuracy as testing in a laboratory or a doctor’s office would provide. By selling directly to the consumers, the process cuts out the middleman, thereby slicing the cost of conventional lab tests in half. The kit also offers complimentary physician consultations should the test results prove positive.


MyLab Box

The inspiration for the testing box came from a rather serendipitous happening – the two friends had gotten together for a drink, and were ranting about dismal dates when the topic of STD testing cropped up in the conversation. They began talking about how awkward it was to have sexual-health-related conversations with prospective partners, and both walked away from that discussion feeling like there must be a better way to talk about such pertinent manners in a less daunting manner.

With that goal in mind, Ivanova and Hessenflow embarked on a quest for accessible, affordable, and reliable STD testing that could be easily purchased without a prescription. Neither had a solid background in healthcare; they both have backgrounds in public relations, while Ivanova described herself as “climbing the corporate ladder” in LA. However, despite their lack of previous experience in healthcare, the two have proved themselves successful in launching their product.

Though the myLAB Box kit is targeted for couples to administer together, single people can use the box as well. “If you’re having sex, then myLAB Box is for you, regardless of whether you’re in a committed relationship or not,” Ivanova clearly states. “MyLAB Box test kits are designed to make it easier for anyone to have peace of mind about their sexual health and that of their partners.”

Another major motivation behind the kits is their realization that with an increase in cuts to the healthcare system, consumer-driven health is only going to rise. “The timing is ripe for a model like myLAB Box, since consumers expect everything to be on-demand and at their fingertips,” details Hessenflow. “Our goal is to transform STD testing from something that has been traditionally taboo and inconvenient into basic, hassle-free hygeine – something taken on as easily as brushing your teeth.”

STD testing and preventative measures are especially imperative in today’s times; the US, one of the most developed countries, is also suffering from STD infections at unprecedented rates. STIs current affect one in three Americans, with HPV affecting almost one in two Americans between ages 18 and 59. The permeation of hookup culture only compounds this issue, so it’s critical that testing methods evolve as quickly as our dating practices do. Another contributor to the growing STD epidemic is the fact that not nearly enough adults proactively test. Less than half of the adults aged 18 to 44 have ever been screened for any STIs other than HIV. And with as many as 80 percent of infections exhibiting little to no symptoms, it’s not surprising that many slip under the radar, especially is people only use the “visual inspection” method.

“We are passionate about our health and the health of the people we care about, and have applied that passion to creating an alternative to in-lab testing,” says Hessenflow. “Empowering ourselves as individuals to take better care of our health is the future of healthcare.”

Lora Ivanova and Ursula Hessenflow

One major positive (no pun intended) of the myLAB Box kits is the convenience it offers. Ivanova touts, “Customers can test affordably and privately, on the go, anytime and anywhere. This means they can test as often as needed to maintain optimal health and peace of mind.” Though an annual visit to the OB/GYN is highly recommended, it is often not enough. For those who are sexually active, it is often necessary for more frequent screening, such as going every three to six months. This is often unrealistic, and too much of a hassle for today’s busy working adult. “The myLAB Box service offers unprecedented speed in processing of results,” promotes Hessenflow. Test results take as little as 24 hours to up to a week, depending on the customer’s location and the tests ordered. The results are delivered quickly and safely in a digital format, straight to the customer’s secure online account. “It really couldn’t be easier,” Hessenflow says.

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In launching the product line, the two entrepreneurs made a surprising discovery: their gender was actually an asset in the typically male-dominated businessworld. “We have found there is a lot of support for female entrepreneurs, in many ways because it is more uncommon, and it’s actually become an asset for us to leverage,” divulges Hessenflow. “That’s why we chose to become certified as a women-owned business. This has gotten us in the door of big retailers such as Walmart. In fact, over 20% of our initial investors were women!”

On imparting wisdom into aspiring entrepreneurs, Ivanova has this to say: “Entrepreneurship is a marathon, not a sprint. Come up with a great idea is important, but that’s just a starting point. The real success comes when you find a way to develop that idea, implement it, fund it and nurture it over time as it grows.” Indeed, it seems like this method has been very fruitful, since the company is still successfully churning out its products, ensuring easily-accessible, accurate, at-home STD testing.

5 Min Read
Culture

Black Wall Street: The Story of One Black American Superhero

Like so many millions across the globe, I deeply mourn the loss of one of our greatest real-life superheroes, Chadwick Boseman. To pay tribute and homage to him, my family rewatched his amazing performance in Black Panther. T'Challa was one of Boseman's most important roles both on and off the screen, as his portrayal of the heroic warrior and leader of the people of Wakanda inspired viewers of all ages.

Re-visiting the futuristic city of Wakanda on screen caused me to reflect on how Blacks in America once had our own version of Wakanda: Black Wall Street. Black Wall Street was the name given to the wealthy, thriving, Tulsa, Oklahoma neighborhood of Greenwood in the early 1900s. The nearly 40 square-block neighborhood had more than 300 businesses and over 1,000 homes, including several stately mansions. Like Wakanda, Black people in Greenwood built their own hospitals, schools, theaters, newspapers, churches, and everything needed for their community to flourish.

Tragically, he lost everything he built, as did the entire district of Greenwood, in the largest, government-sanctioned race massacre in U.S. history.

With only 42 years separating the moment Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves and Greenwood's founding, the amazing feat of Blacks building Black Wall Street is something that required supernatural acts of real-life superheroes the likes of which we see onscreen in Black Panther.

One of these real-life superheroes and leaders of Black Wall Street was my great-grandfather A.J. Smitherman, owner and editor of the Tulsa Star. The Tulsa Star was the first daily Black newspaper with national distribution and was a source for Black people to stay informed about issues affecting them throughout the US. A member of the first generation of Blacks born free in the late 1800s, Smitherman attended La Salle and Northwestern Universities. After receiving his law degree, A.J. began his career in community activism, politics, and the newspaper business.

A fearless leader in the Black community not just in Tulsa but throughout the nation, he dedicated his life to empowering his race in all categories of life in every way: morally, economically, physically, and politically. A.J. fiercely and courageously used his newspaper and the power of the press to end a myriad of corrupt operations and develop his community. As one of the most influential founding fathers of Black Wall Street, his contribution and investment in Greenwood was and is immeasurable. Tragically, he lost everything he built, as did the entire district of Greenwood, in the largest, government-sanctioned race massacre in U.S. history.

Unlike Wakanda—the fictional land hidden in the mountains of Africa, mostly invisible to the outside world and protected from foreign threats—Greenwood was exposed. Greenwood was not only visible, but the 11,000 residents and their luxurious lifestyle were a constant reminder to their poor white neighbors across the tracks that Black people had surpassed them in economic empowerment and success. Eventually, the jealousy, greed and contempt for the growing Black economic and political power ignited a horrendously evil act of domestic terrorism by white Tulsans.

A.J. fiercely and courageously used his newspaper and the power of the press to end a myriad of corrupt operations and develop his community.

On May 31st, 1921, thousands systematically looted and burned down Greenwood in a 36 hour-long massacre resulting in the murdering of over 300 Blacks. Thousands more were detained in concentration camps where they remained for months through the freezing Oklahoman winter.

In a recent interview, I was asked what goes through my head when I see the racial unrest taking place today and compare it to what was happening 100 years ago leading up to the Tulsa Massacre. The short answer is that I am incredibly sad. I'm sad for so many reasons. One of the things I am saddest about is knowing that my great-grandfather and great-grandmother sacrificed everything for the betterment and empowerment of their race. And after all of these years, the struggle continues.

I believe that now, more than ever, it is so important to maintain not only our hope but our faith.

A.J. Smitherman's writings in both the Tulsa Star, and thereafter in the Empire Star, a paper he founded later in New York, reveal a man full of hope and ambition to make a difference and contribute to his race and his country as part of the first generation of Blacks born free. He worked tirelessly to this end until the day he died in 1961. Tragically, A.J. died still a fugitive of the state of Oklahoma, having been unjustly indicted by a grand jury for inciting the massacre. This is another point of tremendous pain and grief for me and my family. It is a travesty that he never saw justice in his lifetime, and he furthermore never saw his dream of racial equality.

But perhaps what saddens me most is the fact that I truly believe that in his heart, he still had hope that America was on a path to find its way out of its dark past and into the light of a new dawn. He hoped that the nation would one day become a country where his descendants would no longer be subject to racial hatred, discrimination, and economic disenfranchisement. And I'm certain that he believed the days that Black people would fear being lynched would be long gone by now.

One of the things I am saddest about is knowing that my great-grandfather and great-grandmother sacrificed everything for the betterment and empowerment of their race. And after all of these years, the struggle continues.

I can feel A.J.'s blood in my veins, and I feel a responsibility to carry the torch of the light of hope. I believe that now, more than ever, it is so important to maintain not only our hope but our faith. I'm very grateful for the attention being brought to the legacy of Black Wall Street and A.J. Smitherman. Knowing their story of success and triumph and how it tragically turned to massacre and destruction is vital to insuring history doesn't continue to repeat itself 100 years later.

One thing I know for certain is that building a brighter future will require all of us to summon our own inner superhero, like A.J. Smitherman and Chadwick Boseman before us, and work together to continue to fight for our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.