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Meet SF Code4Impact Award Winners: Dr. Dick

DR. DICK: A SEXUAL HEALTH APP TO PROMOTE HIV AWARENESS & PREVENTION AMONGST GAY MEN

Check out the team’s project here: http://www.hackathon.io/dr-dick

April is STD awareness month, and STDs, including HIV, remain a huge public health challenge, especially for gay men and other men who have sex with men.

Did you know that gay men accounted for a whopping 70% of the approximately 44,000 new HIV infections diagnosed in the U.S. in 2014? Gay men are at greatest risk for HIV and sexually transmitted diseases (STD) such as gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis. Gay men often experience social stigma, homophobia, and discrimination in their communities, which prevent them from getting quality health services.

A lack of sexual health awareness among this population demographic presents a huge challenge. Many gay men do not even know they have HIV and may infect others without knowing it. Gay men just don’t know what they need, or when they need it, according to Dr. Kenneth Katz ­ a physician and gay men’s health advocate who previously worked with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and in local public health. STD screening rates for diseases like syphilis, gonorrhea, and HIV are still well below CDC’s recommended guidelines.

He also noted clinicians may not even know how to take care of their gay patients either. Clinicians often don’t know and don’t ask the sexual orientation of their patients ­ and even if they do, they often fall short of CDC recommendations in advising their gay patients about their sexual health. And many of the tests gay men need are different from the ones recommended for straight men and women.

Access to reliable sources of sexual health information is also difficult; CDC’s STD Treatment Guidelines are aimed at a physician audience and woefully incomprehensible to the layperson.

All of these reasons led Dr. Katz to come up with the idea for Dr. Dick. We believe Dr. Dick has a strong potential to be part of the solution; one study has shown that the use of technology ­ including email and text message reminders ­ could effectively increase rates of STD testing among gay men. Dr. Dick’s user-­friendly and interactive mobile guide will be appealing to young gay men who are at greatest risk for HIV and other infections.

Through Dr. Dick, we hope to empower gay men to take care of their sexual health by educating them on which tests they need and how often and where to get those tests (e.g., gay-­friendly doctors, STD and HIV testing sites), and reminding them to get tested as appropriate. Dr. Dick will help translate CDC’s STD Treatment Guidelines into actionable knowledge for gay men while connecting them to vital health resources and information, including preventive measures such as pre­exposure prophylaxis for HIV (PrEP). PrEP ­ which involves taking anti­HIV medicines to prevent HIV infections ­ has been proven to be remarkably effective in preventing new HIV infections among gay men.

We’re thrilled to have won AngelHack’s Code 4 Impact local award in San Francisco with our initial prototype of Dr. Dick. We believe there’s an urgent need for an app like Dr. Dick; there’s currently no app or website that does what Dr. Dick will do. Our team look forward to potentially being selected for the HACKcelerator program so we can further refine our initial product into a full­-fledged app. Through Dr. Dick, we’re excited to make a huge public health impact in our community and beyond!

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of organizations with which the author or the persons mentioned in the article are affiliated.

 

Please reach out to the author at ​houchia126@gmail.comfor any inquiries about the project or ideas for collaboration. The following people are part of the Dr. Dick Angelhack hackathon team:

 

 

Written by: Hou Chia

kchia87@gmail.com

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