I get a lot of people asking about how to have the “safer sex talk.” It’s a challenging conversation for a lot of people to have, for a lot of reasons. Even when both people test negative for sexually transmitted infections, it’s not always easy to have that chat. Some folks tell me that they don’t want to break the mood. Others are worried about their partner’s reaction. Or maybe they’re scared that even bringing the topic up will lead to a fight. A lot of women have said that simply talking about safer sex and their sexual history can end in slut-shaming. And if you have (or have had) and STI, a lot of people will think that that mean’s that you’re “dirty,” even though we don’t generally jump to that conclusion for other infections. It’s important to remember that STIs don’t make you dirty.
For the most part, I’m in favor of anything that helps people have those talks. I recently wrote about a new service that sends a text message to any phone you designate, detailing which STI tests you’ve had and your results. And now, there’s a new phone app that lets you bump with another user to trade contact info and STI status..
The idea behind MedXSafe is pretty simple. After you get your STI test results, you have your doctor verify them on the app (which is HIPAA-compliant). When you want to share your info with another user, you just bump phones. It seems pretty straightforward, though of course, some people are concerned that it promotes a false sense of safety or will encourage reckless sex.
Personally, I see these sorts of apps as useful tools, but they won’t make it less important to have a safer sex talk. Most people will get tested for some STIs but not all of them. There’s also a window between exposure to an STI and testing positive for it, so it’s possible to get inaccurate results (depending on the timing). But it’s still an improvement to have an app or other service that helps people have those conversations and helps reduce the odds that a potential partner is either mistaken or dishonest about what they got tested for or their results.
Of course, MedXSafe requires both people to have the app but it’s HIPAA-compliant, while Qpid lets you share your results with anyone without being HIPAA-complaint. As always, there are pros and cons. But whatever you choose, don’t forget that condoms are still a good idea for keeping yourself safe(r) and reducing the risk of pregnancy (if intercourse is on the menu). We have lots of great tips for finding the perfect condoms and using them right.