It was four years ago when Lora Ivanova and Ursula Hessenflow were talking at a Los Angeles café about the L.A. dating scene.
The biggest aggravation they had was the ability to talk about safe sex when first meeting someone. How could one deal with the discomfort of asking someone they just met if they were tested for STDs?
According to 39-year-old Ivanova, it’s not easy to talk about STDs if a person isn’t getting tested. This is very true for women who grew up under the impression that having more than one sex partner was a bad thing. Imagine if this stigma could be taken away with the help of an at-home kit.
This is why the myLAB box was developed.
While competitors offer kits for an array of health conditions along with STDs, myLAB is a dedicated sexual health kit. The kit can be purchased on the company’s website as well as Amazon, Target and Wal-Mart. If purchased online, the kit arrives in an unmarked package.
Kits are designed for the more common sexually transmitted diseases such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, genital herpes and HIV, with a starting cost of $79. How do these kits work? You send back a sample of your blood, urine or genital swab and attain results within five days. If your results are positive, you’ll receive a call from an STD counselor about the different options and get the medication you need.
Ivanova said the idea was to provide a solution that ensured immediate treatments.
And, Ivanova’s more difficult task was making it affordable like a flu shot.
Most of Ivanova’s younger years were spent outside in her Sofia, Bulgaria neighborhood. She said she wanted to accomplish two things – become an astronaut and a smoker. Ivanova recently gave up the smoking habit, and never became an astronaut.
She actually got a full scholarship to St. Louis’ National University where she majored in both business and theater. She said she bought into the notion of corporate success, and upon graduating, moved to L.A. to begin working at Newegg.com. She also worked with the National Football League and Mindshare LA. Still, Ivanova said something was still amiss.
She said she wanted to be an artist but loved the business world, and she wanted to find a way to make the two coexist. It wasn’t too long before she discovered there was a need for STD testing in the home. She knew that was her ticket to a successful career and creativity.
Ivanova said money doesn’t measure personal worth but agrees her kit is helping people, which is what she wanted to do.
The need for at-home testing kits has increased significantly. In just four years (2013 to 2017), the number of U.S. syphilis cases has doubled with a 67 percent increase in gonorrhea cases and chlamydia cases are extremely high too. Despite these numbers, Americans are still not getting tested.
The funding for the myLAB box was fairly low in the beginning, but just recently they were able to secure $1.5 million. This money will now let them include more services such as cervical cancer screenings. Nearly 79 million Americans have the HPV virus, and while some clear up on their own, other strains can lead to cancer. This is why it’s so important to get tested regularly.
Still, treating people quicker using at-home testing is difficult, especially when dealing with HPV. Washington University Assistant Professor of Medicine Dr. Hilary Reno said there are around 30 kinds of HPV – some being precursors of cancer. She said any woman – 30 and older – with a positive HPV test needs to see their doctor.
Reno said she’s concerned that the myLAB box kit is still too expensive for the group who needs it most. She said lower socioeconomic status groups cannot pay for the test, although some insurance plans do provide reimbursement for these kits.
Ivanova said the focus needs to be on an answer that everybody can use, and she realizes that sexually transmitted infections are a problem for everyone.
The myLAB box provides even more affordable, comprehensive testing options for people to choose from. Ivanova said it’s nice to see other companies providing similar such as the myLAB box. She said it’s an indication that the industry is sitting up and taking notice while also offering the service.
Hessenflow believes the myLAB box will succeed with Ivanova being the driving force. She said Ivanova is one of the most stubborn people she knows and will make anything she has planned come to fruition.
For Ivanova, her goal is to improve people’s chances of being seen by a doctor and improving their health state. She said there are two things she wants – to ensure everybody has the same level of care and it’s easier to talk with new partners about safe sex.
Written by Mark Riegel, MD
Here’s what we've been up to recently.
Help stop the spread of STDs by knowing your status. Get tested today!