High-tech tools for STDs
Ramin Bastani believed he was about to get lucky. A woman he’d met earlier that night was making her way toward his bedroom.
Suddenly, he hesitated. It didn’t go unnoticed.
“What’s your deal? Are you gay?” the woman asked.
No. He wasn’t gay.
“What is it?” she wondered. “Oh my gosh! Do you have an STD?”
No, it wasn’t that either.
Alarmed, she stepped away from him.
“Oh my God! Yes, you do. You have an STD,” he recalls her saying emphatically.
Bastani confessed what was bothering him — he barely knew this woman.
“No,” he told her. “I’m afraid you might.”
She slapped him across the face and walked out of the room.
It’s the kind of awkward moment a lot of men might prefer to forget, but for Bastani it was the impetus for starting his company, Qpid.me, a free website that lets users text and share their verified sexually transmitted disease results with potential partners.
“I remember sitting back thinking, ‘There’s got to be a better way,’ ” Bastani says.
At any given time, 110 million Americans have a sexually transmitted infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Young people contract half of all new cases. They’re also tech-savvy, and that’s driving the development of new high-tech STD prevention tools geared toward them.
Qpid.me users can share their verified test results for HIV, chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis. Their status comes directly from their own U.S. health care provider. It shows when they got tested and includes a disclaimer that notes the user may have had sex since then.
The company promotes the service as a way to “spread the love, nothing else.” It’s a modern, flirtatious version of “I’ll show you mine, if you show me yours,” Bastiani says, that can make would-be lovers more attractive to each other.
“We’re lining the idea of getting tested with actually getting more action,” he says.
Another STD tech tool helps people have difficult conversations with past lovers. Studies show 23% of people diagnosed with an STD warn former partners they might also be at risk.
At sotheycanknow.org, users can provide that warning anonymously by e-mail for free.
“There is obviously a lot of anxiety with talking to a past partner about a diagnosis, particularly if you’re not close to that person, or if it was a casual partner, or if it was someone that you had a falling out with,” says Jenny McManus, the company’s director of operations. “We’re hoping to get those patients who wouldn’t normally tell their partners to do it through our anonymous service.”
The U.S.-based service lets users notify former partners about chlamydia, gonorrhea and trichomoniasis. The anonymous e-mail has information about the STD exposure and where the recipient can go to get tested. Users are asked to certify that they are sending the e-mail for the right reasons, but the site doesn’t require the results to be verified. Recipients can report misuse of the service to the company.
For users who are willing to speak to their former sex partners, the site also offers scripts for the difficult discussion.
Another STD tech tool out there is an app called STD Triage.
Worried you might have symptoms of an STD? This service lets you take a picture of a rash, for example, on your private parts, and for about $40, you can send it in and get a response back from a doctor within a day about what it might be.
The app screens for STDs that result in physical symptoms such as syphilis, herpes and genital warts.
Twenty-five percent of the images screened are actually STDs, the company says. Often the images show something else entirely, such as an infected hair follicle.
“There are a lot of worried people out there,” says the company’s founder, Alexander Borve. “People actually think they have an infection and they don’t.”
The service is available internationally. The screenings are not definitive — they only provide potential diagnoses. The results include information about what the user may be experiencing and recommendations for treatment, including when to see a dermatologist or visit an STD clinic to have the diagnosis verified.
“We’re not a diagnostic service. We’re not trying to substitute the doctor relationship,” Borve says. “We’re getting the right patient at the right time to the right level of health care.”