Without a doubt, it’s one of the most awkward and palm-sweating questions to ask in a dating relationship: “Have you been tested?”
It may be difficult to say, but it’s one of the most important to discuss, especially when you are getting physically serious with someone. Even more important, is to find out the answers in a reliable way, beyond a simple, “Oh yeah, baby, I’m clean.”
AntiViral Research Center at University and Park (AVRC UP) through UC San Diego has taken the guesswork and stigma out of testing with a new bright and welcoming space, complete with consultation pods and a selfie booth designed by creative agency Hello Lauren Turton. The project provides seven results for major STDs at no-cost in just 30 minutes and aims to bring awareness to sexual in San Diego.
We recently spoke with Marketing Director Marcel Reyes-Vermillion to find out the genesis and inspiration of the project and how Good to Go works for San Diegans.
PACIFIC: How did Good to Go come to be?
MARCEL REYES-VERMILLION: Originally, the campaign, now called “Good To Go,” was called “Lead The Way,” and for the better part of the past decade, it was only screening for HIV. It was the first in this region to unroll The Early Test, the most sensitive and accurate test in the industry. As “Lead The Way” evolved, the researchers realized that they needed to be testing for other STDs that tend to come hand in hand with HIV. This expanded the scope of the mission. We wanted to create a space that was friendly, fun and Instagrammable.
How was the design inspired?
In the initial vision, Forrest Wright of Page 90 Inc. and the AntiViral Research Center wanted the clinic to be an anti-clinic. Instead of being a sterile medical-appearing facility, it could be a space where people would want to come and be tested. We also wanted it to be a place where people would feel encouraged to take selfies and share that they have been in.
Which seven STDs does it test for and why those?
We test for six STDs, but we test for HIV in two different ways. We test for HIV, syphilis, chlamydia, gonorrhea, hepatitis B and hepatitis C. Our main focus is HIV, because one of our research priorities is to detect HIV during the earliest stage of infection when it is most transmissible. So, we have two tests for HIV, one of which detects HIV during this early stage of infection. Infection with gonorrhea, chlamydia or syphilis can cause a local inflammatory environment that can increase the risk of spreading HIV or getting HIV.
What has the public reaction been to Good to Go?
At our Grand Opening (in December), we were fortunate enough to have openly-queer politician and current California State Senate President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins speak. She shared how millennials are much more open to talking about their sex lives and sexual health in general, and how it’s a big cultural shift from the more discreet ways of her generation.
Because millennial culture is more about visibility, transparency and trust — we hope that it means there will be more candid conversations between people about getting tested, their test results, and their safety practices. It’s something we all should be talking about, and yet we often hide that whole part of our health away, and it is in hiding and ignorance that the spread of disease occurs.
What’s the idea behind the selfie booth?
The selfie booth is a way we are trying to have people chronicle their own testing. You can take a picture in it, put it on social media, and say: “Look, here’s proof I got tested!” It just makes it easier if it’s something fun that you’d want to share, yet it also subtly shows you are taking your sexual health seriously and getting tested regularly.
How is someone “Good to Go”?
The only way they are officially “Good to Go” is if they hold the lightbox with that day’s date on it, to verify they tested that day. Through an app in the iPad that takes their selfie, they are texted or emailed the resulting image or gif. The public knows that someone testing with a date four months ago or more, should probably test again.
What do you want the public to know about this project?
We worked really hard to think from the perspective of someone getting an STD test. They might be nervous, they might be in here because they know they have been exposed to something, and they might really be worried. We wanted to deliver a sunny, bright, warm space that looks cool. We wanted to make the entire process less fearful, and hope that through our design it could become a welcome part of someone’s routine life.
Good to Go
Where: 3830 Park Blvd., inside the Egyptian on the corner of Park Boulevard and University Avenue.
When: Noon to 8 p.m. weekdays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and closed Sundays