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.
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.[thb_image full_width="true" alignment="center" image="19512" img_size="full"]
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.
Gender divisions in sports have primarily served to keep women out of what has always been believed to be a male domain. The idea of women participating alongside men has been regarded with contempt under the belief that women were made physically inferior.
Within their own division, women have reached new heights, received accolades for outstanding physical performance and endurance, and have proven themselves to be as capable of athletic excellence as men. In spite of women's collective fight to be recognized as equals to their male counterparts, female athletes must now prove their womanhood in order to compete alongside their own gender.
That has been the reality for Caster Semenya, a South African Olympic champion, who has been at the center of the latest gender discrimination debate across the world. After crushing her competition in the women's 800-meter dash in 2016, Semenya was subjected to scrutiny from her peers based upon her physical appearance, calling her gender into question. Despite setting a new national record for South Africa and attaining the title of fifth fastest woman in Olympic history, Semenya's success was quickly brushed aside as she became a spectacle for all the wrong reasons.
Semenya's gender became a hot topic among reporters as the Olympic champion was subjected to sex testing by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). According to Ruth Padawer from the New York Times, Semenya was forced to undergo relentless examination by gender experts to determine whether or not she was woman enough to compete as one. While the IAAF has never released the results of their testing, that did not stop the media from making irreverent speculations about the athlete's gender.
Moments after winning the Berlin World Athletics Championship in 2009, Semenya was faced with immediate backlash from fellow runners. Elisa Cusma who suffered a whopping defeat after finishing in sixth place, felt as though Semenya was too masculine to compete in a women's race. Cusma stated, "These kind of people should not run with us. For me, she is not a woman. She's a man." While her statement proved insensitive enough, her perspective was acknowledged and appeared to be a mutually belief among the other white female competitors.
Fast forward to 2018, the IAAF issued new Eligibility Regulations for Female Classification (Athlete with Differences of Sexual Development) that apply to events from 400m to the mile, including 400m hurdles races, 800m, and 1500m. The regulations created by the IAAF state that an athlete must be recognized at law as either female or intersex, she must reduce her testosterone level to below 5 nmol/L continuously for the duration of six months, and she must maintain her testosterone levels to remain below 5 nmol/L during and after competing so long as she wishes to be eligible to compete in any future events. It is believed that these new rules have been put into effect to specifically target Semenya given her history of being the most recent athlete to face this sort of discrimination.
With these regulations put into effect, in combination with the lack of information about whether or not Semenya is biologically a female of male, society has seemed to come to the conclusion that Semenya is intersex, meaning she was born with any variation of characteristics, chromosomes, gonads, sex hormones, or genitals. After her initial testing, there had been alleged leaks to media outlets such as Australia's Daily Telegraph newspaper which stated that Semenya's results proved that her testosterone levels were too high. This information, while not credible, has been widely accepted as fact. Whether or not Semenya is intersex, society appears to be missing the point that no one is entitled to this information. Running off their newfound acceptance that the Olympic champion is intersex, it calls into question whether her elevated levels of testosterone makes her a man.
The IAAF published a study concluding that higher levels of testosterone do, in fact, contribute to the level of performance in track and field. However, higher testosterone levels have never been the sole determining factor for sex or gender. There are conditions that affect women, such as PCOS, in which the ovaries produce extra amounts of testosterone. However, those women never have their womanhood called into question, nor should they—and neither should Semenya.
Every aspect of the issue surrounding Semenya's body has been deplorable, to say the least. However, there has not been enough recognition as to how invasive and degrading sex testing actually is. For any woman, at any age, to have her body forcibly examined and studied like a science project by "experts" is humiliating and unethical. Under no circumstances have Semenya's health or well-being been considered upon discovering that her body allegedly produces an excessive amount of testosterone. For the sake of an organization, for the comfort of white female athletes who felt as though Semenya's gender was an unfair advantage against them, Semenya and other women like her, must undergo hormone treatment to reduce their performance to that of which women are expected to perform at. Yet some women within the athletic community are unphased by this direct attempt to further prove women as inferior athletes.
As difficult as this global invasion of privacy has been for the athlete, the humiliation and sense of violation is felt by her people in South Africa. Writer and activist, Kari, reported that Semenya has had the country's undying support since her first global appearance in 2009. Even after the IAAF released their new regulations, South Africans have refuted their accusations. Kari stated, "The Minister of Sports and Recreation and the Africa National Congress, South Africa's ruling party labeled the decision as anti-sport, racist, and homophobic." It is no secret that the build and appearance of Black women have always been met with racist and sexist commentary. Because Black women have never managed to fit into the European standard of beauty catered to and in favor of white women, the accusations of Semenya appearing too masculine were unsurprising.
Despite the countless injustices Semenya has faced over the years, she remains as determined as ever to return to track and field and compete amongst women as the woman she is. Her fight against the IAAF's regulations continues as the Olympic champion has been receiving and outpour of support in wake of the Association's decision. Semenya is determined to run again, win again, and set new and inclusive standards for women's sports.