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Will Gay Hook-Up Apps Soon Reveal the STD Status of Potential Partners?

Hula, a new app that verifies STD results for users, hopes to make hooking up safer:

HulaHula is also hoping that it can help to reduce the risk of sex with people met through the proliferating location-based dating apps. Last month it announced that it was partnering with the gay dating app MISTER, which has a geolocator that helps men find other men by location. MISTER is currently publicizing the Hula service on its app and encouraging users to tap it to find local testing centers and obtain test results. MISTER is also encouraging users to link to Hula from within their profiles, making their test results available to online “friends.” Verified test results on gay sex apps would be a big change from current approaches, where it is common for individuals to self-report that they are HIV-free on their profiles. “In the not too distant future you’ll be able to see a badge on someone’s dating profile showing they’ve verified STD status by Hula,” says Hula founder and CEO, Ramin Bastani. “That can help you make better decisions about how you want to connect.”

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Comments

  1. No objection to this. Sharing is caring, and if someone is that weird about being forthcoming so that people can make a decision that's right for both parties, then they can use another service.

    Posted by: Joey Y | Nov 22, 2013 2:00:28 PM


  2. No objection to this. Sharing is caring, and if someone is that weird about being forthcoming so that people can make a decision that's right for both parties, then they can use another service.

    Posted by: Joey Y | Nov 22, 2013 2:00:28 PM


  3. ....am I the only 'mo who's heard of condoms and knows how to use them?

    The number of times i've heard guys say that they will not have sex with a guy who is open, let's say, about his HIV+ status because "they don't wanna risk it. what if the condom breaks?" is galling. And stupid.

    You won't use a condom with a guy who is upfront about his Poz status, but will use a condom with a guy who states that he's HIV-, you wear the condom "just in case" - so..."just in case" what? is it a belief that being open about being positive means that your magic-poz penis breaks the condoms? or how about the guys who don't have sex, with condoms, with guys who are open about their poz status, yet will go full-on bareback with a guy who claims to be "neg. DDF"? nonsense.

    as for the "what if the condom breaks?" crowd - i posit this piece of information, that Sarah Palin neglected to pass on to her daughter: "just because you're having sex doesn't mean you have to let the guy finish inside you"

    werk.

    Posted by: Little Kiwi | Nov 22, 2013 2:00:28 PM


  4. Mixed feelings about this. Another way to hand a corporation deeply sensitive personal information. But what the hell, we already do that -- privacy is dead.

    If this thing helps prevent infections, great. But it seems likely to feed the false sense of security that there's some kind of "DDF" gold card allowing you to bareback with strangers. There isn't. As everyone should know, infections can take months to turn up in test results.

    Just play safe, always. It's not that complicated.

    Posted by: DW | Nov 22, 2013 2:18:56 PM


  5. Great idea. Gameify taking care of yourself and getting tested. If you *don't* get yourself tested and have the badge on your profile, you'll show the whole wold that you are suspect.

    Posted by: jeo | Nov 22, 2013 2:21:28 PM


  6. Saying "play safe, always" is not complicated is like saying the key to not being fat is to "not consume more calories than you burn." While true, obviously, there are other factors at work other than ignorance - pleasure, primal urges and people's immense capacity for self-delusion ("that slice of pie is only 500 calories" "He's obviously clean - what's the risk?") - that make things far more complicated.
    People already engage in high-risk activities with little-to-no information. I doubt that people will engage in more such activities if given more information. And while I understand Little Kiwi's sentiment, there is a difference (setting aside the issue of viral loads) between having sex with someone who definitely is infected with something vs. someone who just may be infected. At worst, the latter person is equal to the risk of the former person.

    Posted by: Vaughn | Nov 22, 2013 2:42:09 PM


  7. Stupid idea. There are going to have a hard time not violating HIPPA regulations. This would mean that users tests could not be anonymous (unless you want to share that information). All in the name of an App meant to find hookup partners? sad. just sad. Protect yourself, this app does nothing.

    Posted by: JPinPHX | Nov 22, 2013 2:43:01 PM


  8. Wow, this is absurd.

    Posted by: mascgaybloke | Nov 22, 2013 2:47:07 PM


  9. It will have the opposite effect. Also, pretty sure it violates HIPPA anyway.

    Posted by: Sam | Nov 22, 2013 2:48:22 PM


  10. The drawback I see to this isn't privacy, it's the false sense of security a guy will have when he THINKS he's about to have sex with an "STD-free" partner based on testing that may have been done since before he had his last sexual encounter(s).

    Too many guys already engage in risky behavior based upon their assumption that a partner who hasn't shared his STD status is clean. Imagine how many more guys will do so (and how much riskier the behavior) when his partner is waving a clean bill of health.

    Posted by: sparks | Nov 22, 2013 3:00:18 PM


  11. LOL! Two idiots claim that this will violate HIPPA. HIPPA doesn't restrict an individual from sharing his own medical information. Morons.

    But hey, great service here! It's like offering bigger cabins and better room service on the Titanic. With 40 years of data available on this, it is clear that a life of hookups with strangers isn't healthy. It is associated with violence, with mental and emotional disorders, and STIs. It is a catastrophe for anyone who does this over the long term, and gay men are the only ones on Earth to make this the norm over the long term.

    Posted by: Mike | Nov 22, 2013 3:00:33 PM


  12. @VAUGHN Yes, more information is better, obviously -- and a partner who can demonstrate that he was probably uninfected three months ago is statistically a safer bet than someone who hasn't been tested at all.

    But this concept isn't just about information, it's about a Good Housekeeping Seal that reinforces the idea that there is such a thing as a "clean" partner. It's the equivalent of sticking a Weight Watchers logo on that pie case.

    Of course people will always make rash decisions in moments of passion. But that capacity for self-delusion is likely to be even more tempted to take a slice of pie when it appears to be pre-certified as calorie-free.

    Posted by: DW | Nov 22, 2013 3:02:51 PM


  13. nothing could possibly go wrong with this!

    seriously, this sounds like a lawsuit waiting to happen..."but Hula said he was STD free!!!"

    stupid.

    Posted by: Villageboy13 | Nov 22, 2013 3:22:03 PM


  14. It all comes down to basic probability. Condoms reduce risk. Testing reduces risk. Reducing the number of partners reduces risk. Not allowing climax inside of you reduces risk. Combining them reduces risk even more.

    Just for illustration, assume each of these measures reduces risk by 95% (fake number pulled out of thin air). If you just employ condoms, then you still have a 5% chance of becoming infected. But since probability multiplies, if you use all four, then you are much much much much safer: (.05)^4 = .00000625 = .000625% chance of becoming infected, which is smaller than 5% by a factor of 8000.

    Moral of the story: Anyone who tells you "just use a condom" has never taken a course in probability.

    Posted by: Merv | Nov 22, 2013 3:24:14 PM


  15. Not in violation of HIPAA since the user if the user has signed a waiver of consent to release the information about himself or herself.

    Posted by: TruthTeller | Nov 22, 2013 5:57:31 PM


  16. Considering the reality that the most commonly used test, Antibody tests ("Rapid" tests), which give a positive result based on antibodies to HIV, not the virus itself has a big "window period" which is a period of time after a person is infected during which they won't test positive:
    * 2-8 weeks (up to 2 months) after infection, most people will have enough antibodies to test positive
    * 12 weeks (3 months) after infection, about 97% of people will have enough antibodies to test positive

    Considering that reality isn't the proposed badge/verification

    Posted by: Brian Chicago | Nov 22, 2013 10:14:14 PM


  17. Considering the reality that the most commonly used test, Antibody tests ("Rapid" tests), which give a positive result based on antibodies to HIV, not the virus itself has a big "window period" which is a period of time after a person is infected during which they won't test positive:
    * 2-8 weeks (up to 2 months) after infection, most people will have enough antibodies to test positive
    * 12 weeks (3 months) after infection, about 97% of people will have enough antibodies to test positive

    Considering that reality isn't the proposed badge/verification something that actually cannot be verified?

    If someone was verified by the company and infects another person with HIV doesn't the company then assume a liability and open themselves up to significant lawsuits?

    This proposal doesn't sit well with me at all and I see a lot of people possibly putting themselves in a position of potential exposure because of an app's verification of something that really cannot be fully verified thus giving people a false sense of security.

    Posted by: Brian Chicago | Nov 22, 2013 10:19:21 PM


  18. @Merv: regarding the theory of probablility, "always use a condom" is only part of it. A better strategy is to "always use a condom, pick sex partners who always use a condom, and make sure that they are as serious about that as you are."

    The idea is to get a chain of condom use, each of which reduces the probability of catching something by over a factor of 100, between you and any infected individual. The rule is designed to select a subset of the population that statistically has fewer infected individuals than the population as a whole.

    This, of course, is not 100% safe, but hardly anything is.

    Posted by: Bill | Nov 22, 2013 10:24:47 PM


  19. @ Brian Chicago : I think what is needed is education people as to what the app is getting them: a group of potential sex partners with a lower than average probability of being infected with an STD.

    Every bit of filtering helps by reducing the total number of people who need treatment. That may not seem like much to a person who is unlucky, but the overall reduced number of infections means less total cost for treatment (summed over all individuals) and more funds for other purposes (hopefully things like developing an effective vaccine).

    Posted by: Bill | Nov 22, 2013 10:31:18 PM


  20. @Bill - I'm not arguing against condom use. I'm arguing against people who treat it as a substitute for testing and other safety measures. I hear that so often from people who defend lying about sero-status by saying that it's irrelevant as long as you use a condom. To protect themselves sufficiently, people need to combine condom use with other steps, including knowing sero-status. Fortunately, now with the advent of quick in-home tests, people don't need to take other people's word for their status.

    Posted by: Merv | Nov 22, 2013 10:48:14 PM


  21. @Merv - while lying is a different matter, a test does not guarantee that one is HIV- due to the window period each test has. The app probably helps but only if people understand what it actually does for them.

    What your original comment missed was that it implicitly assumed sex with an infected partner, and ignored that people who consistently use condoms are less likely to be infected. The analysis is a bit more complicated than simply multiplying probabilities.

    Posted by: Bill | Nov 22, 2013 11:52:23 PM


  22. @Bill - Yes, the test isn't 100%. If it were, then other precautions wouldn't matter at all (at least for HIV), because you would have a zero as one of the probabilities that you multiply together.

    Actually, my original post didn't assume an infected partner, it assumed status was unknown. It also implicitly assumed that someone who took no precautions and had lots of different partners would almost certainly be infected eventually. For the gay population in major US cities, with up to 30% of gay males infected, that's pretty accurate. But even if you don't assume that, it doesn't change the relative probabilities, only the final ones. In the example, probabilities would still multiply, and it would still be 8000 times safer. I definitely didn't ignore that people who consistently use condoms are less likely to be infected. I assumed it would be 95% less likely.

    Posted by: Merv | Nov 23, 2013 1:38:59 AM


  23. "Deeply sensitive personal information?" When you sneeze in public, everyone within earshot will assume you have a cold. Does it offend your deeply sensitive sensibilities when all of those people are privy to information regarding your health status, as well?

    I really don't see why STI status should be safeguarded with all the same import as a state secret. When it comes to human health issues, taboos cost people their lives.

    And, while I applaud the effort to inject a little credibility into the practice of pulling randoms, I still say that if you're going to hookup with a dude you just met, I don't care if you feel like you have every confidence in the world to assume that he's clean as a whistle, you should still take every possible precaution to safeguard your health.

    Posted by: FFS | Nov 23, 2013 2:07:24 AM


  24. @Bill you raise some excellent points.
    While there ate people who already bareback and this badge system might help slightly lower their risk of exposure, there is a strong possibility that many who do not bareback will not see the significant flaws in the badge system and perceive it to be a pseudo safety blanket of risk free bareback sex. This will really in a plethora of unexpected infections.

    With those infections will come major lawsuits against both companies. Think about it: we live in a country where two guys can have unprotected sex without discussing status and when a sero-conversion occurs, the HIV+ person can be arrested and charged with a crime (which if you look at those cases almost always result in convictions)... What I'm saying is that when someone makes a decision of his own free will and winds up infected, he has zero responsibility for that decision and the other person can go to jail; therefore of course a jury will side with the plaintiff in their lawsuit against the badge company.

    You are right- the most important element to avoid exposure is education. Sadly in the last 10 years education has become less important. Consider that many commenting here don't understand the hiv test window period and how much more complicated it is than the majority of people understand.

    Education is much more needed than some badge that will result in an invincibility complex followed by infection.

    Posted by: Brian Chicago | Nov 23, 2013 3:18:53 AM


  25. Little Kiwi - While you point about the dishonest person has some merit, the simple fact is that most people are honest and decent. So it would follow that even if some people lie, you still reduce your chances of infection by only having sex with me who say that they are STD free. Does that mean that you shouldn't use a condom? Of course not. But anal sex isn't the only kind of sex, and HIV isn't the only STD you should fear.

    As for the "I have no obligation to disclose" people - you are amoral at best and committing attempted murder at worst.

    Posted by: endorado | Nov 23, 2013 10:24:35 AM


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