Asking a potential partner if they’re STD-free can be awkward. For Ramin Bastani, it was a literal slap in the face.
As a woman he met during a night out swore at him and slammed the door behind her, Bastani thought, “There really has to be a better way.”
The idea evolved into Qpid.me, a free website and smartphone app that enables users to share their STD status via text message or email. The idea might seem strange, but the process is basic – once individuals sign up, the site creates a records request for their last STD test that is electronically faxed to their doctors.
After the results are returned, the user can send a one-time use link to as many or as few people as they want. The form contains results for gonorrhea, syphilis, chlamydia, hepatitis C antibody, HPV and hepatitis A vaccines, as well as HIV. Once the text or email is sent, a disclaimer is attached, adding that the user may have had sex since being tested and to use protection.
“People thought I was crazy at first. Our initial reaction to STD status is that you should keep it private and I think that’s wrong now,” Bastani said. “Before, if you talked to someone about their status and they said they were clean, you had no way of knowing details. Now, you’ll know when they were tested, what they were tested for and what the results were. This is a modern, flirtatious version of the saying, ‘I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.’”
Qpid.me encourages users not only to know their status but to get tested often.
“We think of ourselves as a way to help people get laid. A lot of our users want to get tested a lot so their profile is more up to date, which helps them get more action,” Bastani said, adding that he gets tested regularly in order to better understand what users experience.
“Regarding STDs, doctors often say ‘no news is good news’ and you wait weeks to hear back. We know getting tested for STDs sucks and we want to make it suck less.”
Bastani added that, so far, doctors have been “overwhelmingly compliant” with faxing records, but there have been a few who haven’t responded to requests. In those cases, a warning is sent to the doctor that, according to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, patients have a right to their records. So far, Bastani said no further measures have been necessary after this.
“I could see this website as being a double-edged sword,” said Kate Schaeffer, the program coordinator for alcohol and other drugs, interpersonal violence and mental health at Temple’s wellness resource center. “It could open the lines of communication and make someone feel more comfortable talking about their sexual health.”
Schaeffer added it could make people think there is less of a need to have a discussion about their health since the facts are already laid out via text or email.[blockquote who=”Kate Schaeffer” what=”program coordinator at wellness resource center”]Talking about sex doesn’t always feel good but it can lead to a greater sense of intimacy with your partner even in a one-night partner situation.[/blockquote]
Diedre Berry-Guy, the resource center’s healthy lifestyles program coordinator, was also critical.
“I’m concerned about the individual who uses this and their privacy,” Berry-Guy said. “What can be done with the information once you send it out? Can the results be altered? I can see someone using this to maybe be mean to someone, like changing a person’s results from negative to positive just to be spiteful. We live in an age now with social media, where things can end up in places you’d have never thought of, and once it’s on the Internet, it’s permanent.”
For students who get nervous at the thought of talking to their partner – or partners – about sex, Schaeffer said the Wellness Resource Center is a useful avenue.
“We’d like people to get that ability to have that conversation, so if someone needs help finding the right words, they can come in and talk to one of our peer health educators and get practice – the more you do something, the better equipped you are at managing it in most cases,” Schaeffer said.
When a person is prepared to have that discussion, Schaeffer emphasized the importance of openness.
“You want to be honest, ready to hear all sorts of things and ready for all sorts of reactions, in the same way you’d build yourself up for any kind of difficult conversation,” Schaeffer said. “Talking about sex doesn’t always feel good but it can lead to a greater sense of intimacy with your partner, even in a one-night partner situation. And we hope that anyone who’s having sex would feel like they need to have their health taken care of and put themselves first.”
Qpid.me is also working on ways to ease the anxieties that some may feel when keeping up with their sexual health, by adding testing centers to their database for every city in the country, as well as anonymous reviews for each place.
“We’ve already been getting tons of reviews, so we’ll be able to label which places are most LGBT friendly, most teen friendly, most friendly to women and which places ask the least amount of questions,” Bastani said.
He estimated that the feature would be available within a few months.
Qpid.me is also planning to partner with some online dating websites so users can have a badge on their profile that proves they’ve been tested, as well as have celebrities use Twitter to share their STD status, including three former Miss USA winners.
“There is nothing more important and more impactful that I could be doing than Qpid.me,” Bastani said. “We hear stories every week from users, health educators and even parents thanking us for providing this service.”
Cheyenne Shaffer can be reached at email@example.com.