Promotional material for LVNDR's digital sexual health service

Kingston University student helps launch UK’s first tech-led LGBTQ+ sexual health service

A final year PhD student at Kingston University has helped build the UK’s first digital health service for members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Joshua Wells, a qualified pharmacist and specialist in behavioral diagnostics, works as senior clinical lead for LVNDR Health, a company with plans to revolutionise remote clinical support for people in the LGBTQ+ community.

LVNDR recently concluded a pilot programme of an online service which hopes to improve accessibility to the HIV prevention drug PrEP (Pre Exposure Prophylaxis) whilst also looking to create a confidential sexual health care platform which caters to the specific needs of the LGBTQ+ community.

“There’s capacity to deliver specialised care in a new and innovative way,” Wells explained.

“LVNDR has grown from the LGBTQ+ community and is driven by the LGBTQ+ community.”

The need for LVNDR’s innovation became evident during the COVID-19 pandemic, as new barriers to tailored care for minority groups saw the first rise in HIV infections in more than a decade.

Physical barriers, caused by lockdowns and changes in patient behavior, compounded with pre-existing fears of discrimination or insensitivity in the health service, ultimately limiting the circulation of PrEp which, when taken every day, has been found to be 99% effective in reducing the transmission of HIV.

According to statistics provided by LVNDR’s website, 15% of LGBTQ+ people avoid seeking healthcare for fear of discrimination from staff.

There are other barriers too which Wells and the LVNDR team seek to break down, which he outlined: “Maybe there’s concerns about being identified, maybe people cannot get access because they live in a rural community or maybe there’s simply not the capacity – even if they do live next to a clinic”.

Wells stressed however that whilst the quality of NHS sexual health services remains high, simply not enough centres to accommodate demand.

The app works in three stages – first, users request a remote sexual health testing kit which includes within a further test that evaluates kidney health.

This additional test is important as in extremely rare cases, PrEp can be damaging for those with already reduced kidney function.

From there, patients are invited to a virtual consultation with a healthcare professional from the comfort and anonymity of their own home.

Following this meeting, PrEp can then be proscribed if deemed appropriate and discreetly delivered to patient’s homes within days.

LVNDR APP: A mock-up

The service working in collaboration with the NHS, is free at the point of access. Using LVNDR, the PrEp itself is also free.

Wells’ research interests were forged during his time at Kingston studying for a degree in pharmacy, where he researched both people’s adherence to taking regular medications and the wider health of the LGBTQ+ community.

He now teaches Kingston undergraduates about the specific health needs of LGBTQ+ patients.

JOSHUA WELLS: Senior Clinical Lead for LVNDR Health

“The dream”, said Wells “would be a completely limitless national PrEp service that is not limited by geography which anybody can access if they have the right support

“We at LVNDR are very keen to look at national expansion.”

Following the success of the pre-pilot, LVNDR have announced an upcomoing larger test of the service, with further details to be revealed soon.

If you would like to learn more about Wells’ technology and LVNDR you can find their website here.

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