These 5 awesome apps are way better than your high school sex ed class.

Because caring for your body should be simple and shame-free.

You called your insurance, you got the list of doctors who are on your plan, you called 12 of them to get an appointment within the next three months, and now you're ready. You've finally scheduled an appointment! Congratulations! 

That was a lot of work, wasn't it?

And that's just for finding a primary care provider. The search for specialists — like gynecologists and mental health providers — can be even more frustrating, especially for people without health insurance.


And then there's the issue of comfort. Let's face it: most people are uncomfortable talking about their genitals with anyone, even a doctor. Discomfort leads to avoidance, which means that people are putting off important preventative care visits all because we're embarrassed about our bodies. And that's a really big deal, because more than 50% of people will get an STI at some point in their lives.

Taking care of your sexual health can seem like an unpleasant inconvenience, but it shouldn't be that way.

These two agree with me. Gif via Giphy.

Luckily, the creators of these 5 apps agree. And they're here to help.

These apps can help you book appointments, ask questions safely and anonymously, and just have fun while learning about your body. And an extra plus? You don't have to pay to download them.  

1. Maven gets you face to face with a real doctor, from the comfort of your own home.

One day a few months ago, one of my coworkers walked into the office bubbling with excitement. She had just had an appointment to get birth control —  over a video call on her cell phone. For someone who doesn't own a car or have health insurance, that appointment was a game-changer.

Maven is every over-worked, over-scheduled person's dream. The app, launched in April 2015, allows users to talk with doctors face-to-face through video call technology — so you can make your appointment and never have to leave your bed. We're talking birth control consultations, birth education, and even therapy appointments. Maven's rates are lower than most copays: their sliding scale starts at just $15, and there are no hidden costs, so you won't be surprised by a bill in the mail afterwards. 

Maven lets you select what area you're seeking services in. It also hosts a forum where users can ask questions and get answers.

If the idea of a "teledoctor" sounds scary to you, Maven's got your back. The app doesn't just list providers, they require a rigorous application process before providers can be affiliated with the app. According to the Founder & CEO, Kate Ryder, Maven only has a 35% provider acceptance rate.

Though Maven's tagline is "health and wellness by women, for women," don't let that fool you — Maven is open to people of all genders to use. 

2. Bedsider helps you find your best birth control option.

When I'm teaching workshops at colleges, one of the most common questions students ask is "can I get an IUD? I heard that I can't." After assuring them that yes, people who haven't had kids can get IUDs, and yes, you can get an IUD if you're under 30, I tell them that they should check out Bedsider.org for more information on different forms of birth control.

Bedsider is hands-down one of the most comprehensive birth control information websites out there. Their site allows you to look at an interactive method-by-method breakdown of different birth control options, ranging from withdrawal (the pull-out method) and fertility awareness to IUDs and sterilization. 

Image powered by Bedsider.

Their resources are totally free, and they even offer a second site in Spanish

3. Lemonaid has nothing to do with lemons, and everything to do with urgent care.

Lemonaid seeks to make treating common complaints easier for those with busy schedules and without insurance. Users fill out a questionnaire about their current health concerns, upload a picture of their face (per state regulations), and a medical provider writes a prescription. 

It's that simple.

Users can get prescriptions for birth control pills, antibiotics, acid reflux, and more. There is no sliding scale: you just pay $15 flat. Unfortunately, Lemonaid is only available in a few states — California, Michigan, New York, and Pennsylvania. 

4. My Sex Doctor isn't actually a doctor at all.

My Sex Doctor is like an encyclopedia entirely focused on sex. It offers hundreds of definitions, descriptions of STI symptoms, and answers to commonly asked questions all in one app. For sex geeks and curious learners alike, this app creates an awesome learning space. 

"A" is for...

While this app doesn't give you access to an actual doctor, it can give you is the comfort and safety of being able to get your questions answered anonymously. Which brings me to...

5. SexPositive is the best cell phone game you'll download today. Or ever.

Ask a sex educator what their favorite group activity is, and they'll probably tell you that they love teaching games. Because really, what's not to love about learning and having fun? When I found out about this app, I told all of my friends about it and we played it together, giggling every time the spinner landed on "finger on nose."

SexPositive is the sexual health Wheel of Fortune that you didn't know you needed in your life. Developed by the University of Oregon Health Center, the app allows users to identify the risks associated with different behaviors. 

SexPositive allows users to match up what different body parts and objects to identify risk factors. Rather than just sharing risk info, SexPositive also provides tools for safety and communication.

While they're a ton of fun, apps like SexPositive are also incredibly important for folks who might be embarrassed about not knowing about, say, the potential risk of pregnancy from a hand job. 

Because trust me, people have a lot of questions that they're embarrassed to directly ask someone. Just check out this basket of anonymous question cards at The Center for Sexual Pleasure & Health (The CSPH) for proof:  

Saturdays @thecsph -- going through all of our #SSCT question cards for our new video series.

A photo posted by Cassandra Corrado (@feministsexed) on

Shame shouldn't prevent you from seeking quality health care. You deserve to have your questions answered and your health needs fulfilled.

Whether you're looking for information, discrete treatment, or even just convenience, these apps are helping make it happen.

More

As a child, Dr. Sangeeta Bhatia's parents didn't ask her what she wanted to be when she grew up. Instead, her father would ask, "Are you going to be a doctor? Are you going to be an engineer? Or are you going to be an entrepreneur?"

Little did he know that she would successfully become all three: an award-winning biomedical and mechanical engineer who performs cutting-edge medical research and has started multiple companies.

Bhatia holds an M.D. from Harvard University, an M.S. in mechanical engineering from MIT, and a PhD in biomedical engineering from MIT. Bhatia, a Wilson professor of engineering at MIT, is currently serving as director of the Marble Center for Cancer Nanomedicine, where she's working on nanotechnology targeting enzymes in cancer cells. This would allow cancer screenings to be done with a simple urine test.

Bhatia owes much of her impressive career to her family. Her parents were refugees who met in graduate school in India; in fact, she says her mom was the first woman to earn an MBA in the country. The couple immigrated to the U.S. in the 1960s, started a family, and worked hard to give their two daughters the best opportunities.

"They made enormous sacrifices to pick a town with great public schools and really push us to excel the whole way," Bhatia says. "They really believed in us, but they expected excellence. The story I like to tell about my dad is like, if you brought home a 96 on a math test, the response would be, 'What'd you get wrong?'"

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Don't test on animals. That's something we can all agree on, right? No one likes to think of defenseless cats, dogs, hamsters, and birds being exposed to a bunch of things that could make them sick (and the animals aren't happy about it, either). It's no wonder so many people and organizations have fought to stop it. But did you ever think that maybe brands are testing products on us too, they're just not telling us they're doing it?

I know, I know, it sounds like a conspiracy theory, but that's exactly what e-cigarette brands like JUUL (which corners the e-cigarette market) are doing in this country right now, and young people are on the frontlines of the fallout. Most people assume that the government would have looked at devices that allow people to inhale unknown chemicals into their lungs BEFORE they hit the market. You would think that someone in the government would have determined that they are safe. But nope, that hasn't happened. And vape companies are fighting to delay the government's ability to evaluate these products.

So no one really knows the long-term health effects of e-cigarette use, not even JUUL's CEO, nor are they informing the public about the potential risks. On top of that, according to the FDA, there's been a 78% increase in e-cigarette usage among high school and middle school-aged children in just the last two years, prompting the U.S. Surgeon General to officially recognize the trend as an epidemic and urge action against it.

These facts have elicited others to take action, as well.

Truth Initiative, the nonprofit best known for dropping the real facts about smoking and vaping since 2000 through its truth campaign, is now on a mission to confront e-cigarette brands like JUUL about the lack of care they've taken to inform consumers of the potential adverse side effects of their products. And they're doing it with the help of animal protesters who are tired of seeing humans treated like test subjects.

The March Against JUUL | Tested On Humans | truth www.youtube.com

"No one knows the long-term effects of JUULing so any human who uses one is being used as a lab rat," says, appropriately, Mario the Sewer Rat.

"I will never stop fighting JUUL. Or the mailman," notes Doug the Pug, the Instagram-famous dog star.

Truth, the national counter-marketing campaign for youth smoking prevention, hopes this fuzzy, squeaky, snorty animal movement arms humans with the facts about vaping and inspires them to demand transparency from JUUL and other e-cigarette companies. You can get your own fur babies involved too by sharing photos of them wearing protest gear with the hashtag #DontTestOnHumans. Here's some adorable inspo for you:

The dangerous stuff is already out there, but with knowledge on their side, young people will hopefully make the right choices and fight companies making the wrong ones. If you need more convincing, here are the serious facts.

Over the last decade, 127 e-cigarette-related seizures were reported, which prompted the FDA to launch an official investigation in April 2019. Since then, over 215 cases of a new, severe lung illness have sprung up all over the country, with six deaths to date. While scientists aren't yet sure of the root cause, the majority of victims were young adults who regularly vaped and used e-cigarettes. As such, the CDC has launched an official investigation into the potential link.

Sixteen-year-old Luka Kinard, a former frequent e-cigarette-user, is one of the many teens who experienced severe side effects. "Vaping was my biggest addiction," he told NowThis. "It lasted for about 15 months of my high school career." In 2018, Kinard was hospitalized after having a seizure. He also had severe nausea, chest pains, and difficulty breathing.

After the harrowing experience, he quit vaping, and began speaking out about his experience to help inform others and hopefully inspire them to quit and/or take action. "It shouldn't take having a seizure as a result of nicotine addiction like I had for teens to realize that these companies are taking advantage of what we don't know," Kinard said.

Teens are 16 times more likely to use e-cigarettes than adults, and four times more likely to take up traditional smoking as a result, according to truth, and yet the e-cigarette market remains virtually unregulated and untested. In fact, companies like JUUL continue to block and prevent FDA regulations, investing more than $1 million in lawyers and lobbying efforts in the last quarter alone.

Photo by Lindsay Fox/Pixabay

Consumers have a right to know what they're putting in their bodies. If everyone (and their pets) speaks up, the e-cigarette industry will have to make a change. Young people are already taking action across the country. They're hosting rallies nationwide and on October 9 as part of a National Day of Action, young people are urging their friends and classmates to "Ditch JUUL." Will you join them?

For help with quitting e-cigarettes, visit thetruth.com/quit or text DITCHJUUL to 88709 for free, anonymous resources.

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