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Elizabeth Boskey, Ph.D.

My Beef with STD Testing Apps

By April 16, 2012

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While in general I'm in favor of anything that encourages people to talk about their STD status before having sex, I have one big concern about most of the STD apps that are out there. They make it easier to show recent test results, but I wonder if they might actually discourage people from talking about sex. Knowing a test result is better than nothing, but isn't enough. You also have to talk to prospective partners about what risky sexual experiences they've had since they were tested, and how you're going to practice safe sex. Furthermore, even if someone hasbeen celibate since their last test, if they were tested too quickly after a risky encounter, the results of their testing might not even be accurate.

Existing apps may be a reasonable conversational shortcut for people who otherwise would just plow right through without talking about these things at all, but I have my doubts. I'm particularly bothered by apps that say things like simply "good to go." Any results less detailed than the ones provided by this app - which list not only test results, but the date the tests were done and which tests were actually performed - are basically useless. For that matter, even results like those, which look comprehensive, don't mean a potential partner has been tested for everything. Screening for genital herpes, for example, isn't listed on that screen, because it is rarely done unless someone has symptoms. That's one reason why it is so often passed from partner to partner without anyone realizing what's going on.

Comments
April 30, 2012 at 9:29 am
(1) jay says:

well im no doctor, lol…but i don’t think these new services are useless. i’ve heard of both checmateapp and qpid . me. my biggest concern is that checmate doesn’t properly “verify” anything because they allow their users to self-upload their results and having people send in their own results isn’t a good thing because documents can always be forged.
qpid has its users sign HIPAA forms so it is much more reliable because the information comes from the clinic/hospital where the user gets tested and it’s not self submitted.
people should ALWAYS be using condoms, whether they use these services or not. if they don’t then they’re setting themselves up for disaster. at some point you can leave personal responsibility up to the individual, right? And this way if someone was tested during the “window period” and may be infected while their test says otherwise, a condom can help protect…but remember those aren’t 100% effective anyhow, right?
I do think that the services should make their users test more frequently though, perhaps every 3 or 4 months. Relying on 10 month old test results can be pushing it, although it’s better than nothing.
My concern is that you stress conversation but that’s just not what is going on in people’s bedrooms or hotel rooms. I don’t know many people who do a whole doctor’s physical screening to see what std’s a person might have…and even if there is conversation, who is to say the other party is being truthful? I could talk to someone for an hour about their sexual history but sometimes people are too embarrassed to admit the facts and they may hide things so i’m not sure a conversation alone will help much. It would be nice to have a conversation AND see recent documentation.

April 30, 2012 at 9:35 am
(2) std says:

Jay,

I think you make great points. Thank you so much for your contribution!

May 2, 2012 at 8:11 pm
(3) jay says:

no problem. i understand your position and i understand some people may abuse these services and use them as an excuse to bareback…but i guess we have to hold people accountable for their own actions. there are many things in society we have access to that can potentially be abused or mishandled…in those cases we hold people accountable for what they do or they themselves suffer their own consequences. i don’t think it’s fair for the responsible people to be denied a good service if a few people misuse it.
i’d love to hear what other doctors or people in healthcare think about these apps. i think there are pros and cons…but overall i think they can be useful tools. if anything it encourages people to get tested and that’s a huge feat in itself!

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