Student team wins $20k for app that may allow sexual disease tests to be done from home

The first prize winners of the Open category are (from left) Mr Christian Emmanuel Lim, 22; Ms Chen Kai Yi, 21; Mr Irving Shua, 20; Ms Jaime Pang; Dr Yudara Kularathne; Ms Devan Pooja, 21; Ms Anastasiia Tikhonova, 24; and Mr Marcus Hooi, 22. Mr Krongboonying Thanyaboon, 21, was not present. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN
The first prize winners of the Nascent category are (from left) Mr Alvin Tay, 25; Ms Low Xi Zhi, 23; Ms Alicia Chng, 23; Ms Manisha Anbudurai, 23; and Mr Kiran Prabakaran, 25. They developed a video monitoring and analysis software that can detect early signs of autism in children. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

SINGAPORE - Worried about the stigma of going to a clinic to be tested for a sexually transmitted disease (STD)?

A team of tertiary students are now working to enhance a mobile application to allow men who need such tests to do so in the privacy of their homes.

The app, which is male-specific, requires the user to submit a photo of his penis, after which artificial intelligence is used to detect any physical symptoms of an STD.

The team is now developing extra features, such as a test kit being recommended to the user, who can purchase it and have it delivered to his home. After he submits a sample of either his urine or blood, a laboratory can carry out tests to confirm if he has an STD.

On Saturday (Aug 20), the team won the top prize of $20,000 in the Open category of the sixth Medical Grand Challenge at the National University of Singapore (NUS).

Organised by the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, the annual event aims to encourage students across various universities in Singapore to come together and explore creative solutions for healthcare needs.

Students from universities in Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand also took part in this year's contest.

The basic app, known as HeHealth, is the brainchild of NUS clinical instructor Yudara Kularathne, 41, who is mentoring the team of eight students spanning different schools and faculties, including a PhD pharmacy student from NUS and two students from the Renaissance Engineering Programme at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU).

Team leader Jaime Pang, 19, said the team chose to focus on STDs in particular because of the stigma surrounding the topic. They hope the app will make STD testing more accessible and less of a taboo.

"We want to normalise conversations about STDs because people often keep their fears about having them pent-up and refuse to get tested because they are afraid of being judged," said the second-year NTU medical student.

"This is dangerous as they could spread it to others unknowingly."

The team also plans to partner manufacturers of STD test kits and roll out the app to the rest of South-east Asia. No date has been set for the launch of the enhanced app.

The other winners include video monitoring and analysis software that can detect early signs of autism in children, and a 3D-printed braille pad that can transform braille text into audiobooks.

Health Minister Ong Ye Kung, the guest of honour, lauded the event for encouraging innovation.

He said: "All these efforts are an important signal to our students that with the knowledge that you know and the skills you learn, you can empower yourself to really make a difference."

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