She shyly left the clinic when Nadia *, who lives in Singapore, visited a local clinic three years ago to be tested for sexually transmitted diseases (STIs).
A 24-year-old student remembered that an elderly doctor there spoke to her and threw a pile of pamphlets at her “as if I were stupid.”
“I shouldn’t have had sex with my boyfriend in the first place, so I thought it was my fault,” she said.
But now, Internet-savvy people in this country are offered alternative options, thanks to the numerous telemedicine startups that emerged in the city-state last year-all focused on sexual health.
They allow people “shameless” access to sexual health products and advice-like Nadia, given that their attitude towards sex is significantly different from the traditionally accepted view. Young people say they need them.
Nadia says she used Ferne Health, a company that provides STI testing for the privacy of her home.
After consulting her doctor on a video call on the website, she was mailed a vaginal swab kit in a discreet package and was able to self-collect samples. The next day, I received it by courier and received the result within a week.
“I didn’t even know what was in the box because there was nothing written on it, even the courier, which was great,” said Nadia, who shares the apartment with her parents and two brothers.
Due to both high real estate prices and cultural or religious attitudes, it is common for young adults to live at home with their parents before marriage.
“My family is very traditional. I’m Singaporean and also a Malay Muslim, so there are some things you can expect. I can’t tell my mother I’m having sex. “She said.
“The only viable option”
Home infection testing may be common in Europe and the United States, but the concept is relatively new in Singapore.
But while both experts and users agree that such services have been delayed for a long time, clinical sexologist Martha Lee needs some consideration when signing up for them. said.
The results of the home test kit may cause false positives depending on the administration method.
“The cleanliness of the surroundings, and improper swabs can affect results-and false results can cause distress and delay proper treatment.” She said.
But for many young Singaporeans, these services are one of the only viable options for getting reliable advice and information on sexual health.
Fans of these services said they enjoyed their convenience and saved them time to go to the clinic.
But what really appeals to these services is the unobtrusive “judgmentless” experience.
“I felt humiliated”
Wayne *, 37, who treated her premature ejaculation (PE) condition with a service called Noah that focused on male sexual health, is a good example.
“Taking pills for PE is like taking paracetamol for a headache. If necessary, you need to check out. But men go to the doctor to admit this problem. I’m often afraid of things, “he said.
It didn’t help that the GP he saw two years ago made him worse about his situation.
“Nurses and doctors kept asking me loudly in front of others what I was for. I felt humiliated.”
In comparison, his remote consultation with Noah was private and made him feel “respected” as a patient. “It was great because the whole world doesn’t really need to know what I’m experiencing.”
According to the latest version of the World Values Survey released in February Singaporeans turned out to be mostly conservative Regarding the more “liberal norms of sexuality,” 67.3% of respondents said casual sex was “never or rarely justified.”
Premarital abstinence is promoted at schoolSex education is designed to help students develop “mainstream values” of sexuality “assuming the family as the basic unit of society,” the Ministry of Education said on its website.
Therefore, getting sexual health products and tests with a local practitioner if you are not married can be an “embarrassing” or “troublesome” process, some told the BBC. ..
Women, in particular, can get convenience stores for free at pharmacies and convenience stores, but they cannot get contraceptives without a prescription.
Therefore, companies like Dear Doc and Noah that offer contraceptive subscription plans are a welcome intervention.
All of them include virtual consultations with licensed physicians.
Start-ups are certainly seeing the market gap they are filling-and the growing demand for their services proves that.
Noah founder Sean Low says the company’s compound interest monthly growth rate has been more than 50% since its launch in June, and Ferne Health’s XiLiu has grown weekly since its debut in September.
According to Babes, a local teenage pregnancy support service, young people are more aware of their sexual health and are looking for ways to take responsibility despite their disabilities.
“They want to ask questions about sex, but only if they think they’re in their own safe place. These digital health startups that specialize in sexual health issues could be a good platform. there is.”
Nadia agrees, despite the taboo, she knew how important it was to be checked regularly, especially as she was about to start a new relationship.
“That’s the only responsibility, right? But I know that many people don’t because the process has never been so easy.”
* The name has been changed upon request.