Digital Health Startups Destigmatise Sexual Wellness


As STIs hit an all-time high, expanding screening and treatment services is high on the agenda.

What’s happening: According to the WHO, sexually transmitted infections are way up, with 1M new STIs contracted daily. As cases of syphilis, gonorrhoea and chlamydia hit record highs, the agency has warned of a rising sexual health pandemic:

  • In 2022, England experienced a 24% rise in reported cases of STIs, with France, Spain and Germany also seeing similar increases.
  • In 2021, US cases of syphilis rose by 26%, while HIV infections increased by 16%.
  • During the same period, in Australia, cases of syphilis rose by 26%, and among the one in 25 young people who contracted chlamydia, less than a third ever got tested.


Even with budget cuts and COVID-related clinic closures that stripped back screening, decades of rising rates suggest a lack of education, costs and stigmas associated with testing and treatment have created the perfect conditions for STIs to proliferate.

With early testing and diagnosis key in stopping the spread of infections and preventing irreversible outcomes, the WHO has implored improved prevention and treatment.

DIY. On cue, startups around the world are stepping in with next-gen sex ed:

  • Destigmatising sex for women, UK digital marketplace HANX sells gynae-approved condoms, UTIs treament and more.
  • Belgium’s Antelope is developing a diagnostic device for at-home STI testing, delivering clinical results with the ease of use of a pregnancy test.
  • The UK’s iPlaySafe combines a self-testing service with an app enabling users to share results with potential partners.
  • Adding common antibiotic prescriptions into the mix, US brands Wisp and Thirty Madison-owned Nurx package rapid testing with discreet treatment.

Expanding inclusivity, US platform FOLX and the UK’s LVNDR support the LGBTQ+ community with peer-led services and support, while TBD Health recently launched an at-home PrEP kit to reduce the risk of getting HIV

Looking ahead: Consumer-friendly startups are empowering younger generations to take a proactive approach to their sexual health. But the rising numbers don’t lie, and while prevention is preferred, making the test-to-treatment process no big deal might make the biggest impact.

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