The 411: No matter your race, income, age, gender, sex, sexual orientation, language or geographic region, Sexual Health Innovations is dedicated to giving every person in the U.S. easy access to sexual health and well-being education.
Let’s face it — technology is an important part of lives. Our cell phones have pretty much become our right (or left) hands, and our laptops or tablets are never out of reach.
We can FaceTime with our friends on our tablets while streaming the latest episode of “Game of Thrones” on our laptops while playing Candy Crush on our phones. Basically, there’s rarely a time when we’re not connected.
But what about using technology to learn more about sex, STDs, sexual assault, family planning and sexual self-esteem?
Well, that’s exactly what Sexual Health Innovations does.
Seeing technology as the most efficient way to provide information, Sexual Health Innovations’ mission is to create websites, apps and software that advance sexual health and well-being in the United States.
We spoke with Sexual Health Innovations Founder and CEO, Jessica Ladd, to discuss how the organization is facilitating an ecosystem for people who work in sexual health and technology to make a real difference in both spaces.
“There is so much that needs to be built in this space, and there are not enough people building it,” she said. “Whatever we can do to make foundations and government more aware of the fact that they should be funding technology in this space … we want to do what we can to help that.”
Creating an intersection of sexual health and technology
Seuxal Health Innovations offers a lot of great services, and their campaigns are equally as impressive, especially three ones in particular.
The first initiative So They Can Know, an STD partner notification website that helps people who have been diagnosed with STDs let their partners know in a way that’s less embarrassing and awkward.
“We wanted to create a system that would make that easier by providing advice and videos and scripts about how to talk to your partners yourself, but also allow you to anonymously email your partners if you don’t want to tell them yourself and let them know what to get tested for, where to get tested, how likely they are to show symptoms,” Ladd said.
So far, So They Can Know has had more than 70,000 users, and the video that models what that conversation might look like has had more than 90,000 views.
Another initiative that’s making a huge impact is called Private Results, which allows health clinics to deliver patients their STD test results 24/7. Private Results will soon launch in Baltimore, and Ladd hopes to expand to other cities soon.
“Right now in the Baltimore City Health Department Clinic, they only deliver STD test results in person, so 40 percent of patients were not returning for or receiving their test results,” she said. “A lot of clinics in the U.S., particularly publicly-funded clinics, don’t have the capacity right now or the technology to allow patients to access their own test results 24/7. We want change that.”
We’re also very excited about their latest initiative Callisto, a third-party sexual assault recording and reporting platform for colleges and universities that will launch in August.
Sexual assault survivors will be able to go to their school-specific Callisto website, fill out an online form documenting their assault and save it as a time-stamp document.
From there, they can return to it at any time and learn about reporting options and what to expect if they decide to report an assault. If they decide to report it, they submit their record to their chosen authority.
If they don’t want to report their assault right away, but would be interested in reporting if their assailant assaults someone else, they can choose to store their record for now but automatically report the assault if someone else reports the same assailant.
“Part of the reason why that is so important is that 90 percent of college assaults are committed by repeat assailants, but less than 13 percent of them are ever reported,” Ladd said. “Often with any kind of sexual assault or sexual harassment or other forms of oppression, you see people who have been affected by that issue being unsure of whether or not they should come forward and report it, whether or not they would be believed or taken seriously if they do so, whether or not they have the right to be upset.”
It’s easy to see that Sexual Health Innovations truly cares about providing the correct service and advice based on the individual issue each person is facing.
“In general, we try to encourage people to make the decision that’s right for them, and I think anybody’s who’s faced a sexual health challenge, whether it might be getting an STD or being sexually assaulted, wants to, if possible, try to prevent that from happening to other people,” she said. “We just try to make that easier and facilitate that for folks, so those who have been affected and who want to prevent it on a community level have the tools to do so.”
High-quality information that’s easy to understand
Sexual Health Innovations has received a lot of great feedback since its 2011 launch, especially about their groundbreaking initiatives, but it’s also nice to see that they also want to help other organizations get their own projects off the ground.
“A lot of them have become close friends, and we try to do everything we can to be collaborative with them,” Ladd said. “We share what we’ve learned and work to improve the quality of everything that’s created in the space.”
Through these collaborations, Ladd hopes to find new ways to provide cutting-eduge technology that gives people the comprehensive and specialized sex education they need and deserve.
“Whether that be by creating more online content for others, blogging about lessons learned as we go or connecting people to each other who are working in the space, we’re really trying to figure out how we can facilitate that ecosystem,” she said. “I really think technology can help people to find tailored, high-quality information that really meets them where they’re at and gives them exactly the information resources they need to protect their own sexual health and that of their partners and community.”
For more information, visit www.sexualhealthinnovations.org.