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Los Angeles USD deploys app to fight STDs

Free app features an HIV and STD testing-site locator
With the Healthvana app, LAUSD students can find clinics that provide free HIV and STD testing in their area.
With the Healthvana app, LAUSD students can find clinics that provide free HIV and STD testing in their area.

Teenagers and young adults have higher STD rates than any other age group, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. So Los Angeles USD started using an app this semester to better connect students to free HIV and STD testing.

“The students can now find health services they need in their local area with ease and trust,” says Timothy Kordic, program manager at LAUSD’s health education office’s HIV/AIDS prevention unit. “Since we know that young people are turning to online spaces to find relationships, it is important to us that these spaces also have links to positive health information and services.”

The free app, called Healthvana, features an HIV and STD testing-site locator. It also allows students to make appointments and delivers test results. Since launching in the summer of 2014, Healthvana has delivered over 200,000 test results to patients across the nation, according to a company statement.

Role of schools

Each month, about 1,000 young people ages 13 to 24 in the United States are infected with HIV, says Stephanie Zaza, director of the adolescent and school health division at the CDC. Only 22 percent of high school students who have had sex have been tested for HIV, according to a December CDC report.

“Schools can play a critical role in facilitating access to HIV and STD testing,” Zaza says. A school-based referral program can connect students to adolescent-friendly community health care providers. Some schools may be able to offer on-site testing in conjunction with a school-based clinic.

On-site testing at schools or school-based health clinics has been shown to be cost-effective in areas with higher prevalence of STDs, Zaza adds.

“It’s critical that our students get age-appropriate, medically accurate instruction across key areas of sexual health through elementary, middle and high school curricula,” Zaza says. “Research shows that well-designed, school-based HIV/STD prevention programs can significantly reduce sexual risk behaviors among students.”

CDC recommendations

  • Use the National Health Education Standards and the Health Education Curriculum Analysis Tool to develop a comprehensive HIV/STD and teen pregnancy prevention program that ensures students know how to find contraceptives and testing services.
  • Establish referral systems to school-based health centers or community health centers to ensure students can access these services.