Medical graduate Shaik Ashraf was volunteering at the Penang Family Health Development Association (FHDA) two years ago when he chanced upon someone taking an HIV test.
After speaking to the patient, who hailed from the Middle East, Ashraf grew concerned about some of this man’s fears, including if his Malaysian tourist visa would be affected if he tested positive for HIV.
He later found out that being HIV positive or carrying medicine to help combat HIV is an impediment to getting citizenship or a visa, and in places like China, authorities can blacklist you from entering.
Ashraf spent the next one-and-a-half years while waiting for his medical posting developing Burnd, an app to create awareness about HIV testing and sexual health.
He developed his own algorithm, which takes into account a person’s sexual activity, sexual orientation, the type of sex they have and whether they are aware their sexual partners have tested, to be able to deduce HIV risks.
“The major issue I noticed is that people are not aware they could be at the risk of contracting HIV,” he told FMT in a recent interview.
“For some people when they are at high risk, they assume they are at low risk and don’t take necessary precautions. What I did was to make the risks objective and to remove any forms of biases that may be present.”
He explained that some healthcare professionals and clinics “on the more conservative side” in Malaysia might not easily give HIV tests, and sometimes deem any form of sexual activity as “high risk” all the same.
Burnd, now used in 50 countries, was launched last month. It is a play on words on the burning sensation people feel when they have a sexually transmitted disease (STD).
It is now receiving brisk sales on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.
Medical grad develops app to calculate risks of contracting HIV