Are You Ready for the Future of Safer Sex?
Imagine you're single and looking to meet someone new. You have been going to singles' events and even hitting some clubs, not that you think you're going to meet Prince Charming at a bar. You even join a dating site and go on a couple of dates. No horror stories to tell, but nothing quite like the sparks you're hoping for.
Then it happens. You get a message one day from someone whose profile speaks to you. You IM back and forth and move on to the phone. You make plans. You go out and have a blast. He texts to make sure you got in safe. The next day, he asks you out again. You can't believe how easy it all feels, suddenly, even though a few weeks prior it felt like being single was the most difficult and horrific thing you'd ever endured.
Dates pass you by. You're really getting to know one another. When he drops you home that night, he kisses you and this kiss is unlike any other. You decide to invite him up for a glass of wine. He accepts. You know what's coming.
You're not thinking about safe sex at that moment. It's a given, and unless neither one of you happen to have a condom handy, this won't even come up as a topic for discussion. And maybe that's the problem. Accidents happen, and even when they don't, some sexually transmitted illnesses can still get by despite protection. But what's the alternative? Letting him take off his jacket, offering white or red and then asking him to detail his sexual history? The last time he got tested?
What if it wasn't that hard? What if you could pull out your phones and bump them even before you got to that point, and received all the information you needed about someone else's sexual health?
We're that much closer to this scenario, with Chec-Mate, an iPhone app that allows you to share your sexual health status with someone instantly. Created by STFree Certifications, this is the first app of its kind. STFree Certifications, launched in 2004, is responsible for the Safer Sex License, a personal smart card that allows potential partners to access your test results by phone.
>Screengrabs of the Chec-Mate app.
That particular license, recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and easy to acquire through any clinic or private doctor, worked like this: You get screened and ask the entity providing the screening to send your results to STFree, which issues your license. When you meet someone new, they call the number on the back of your card, give the operator your ID number and listen as the operator verifies your STI and HIV status.
As Boinkology noted in 2008 when the license reached critical mass, however, this is not a perfect system:
Of course, knowing the date of someone's last STI test doesn't guarantee that they're STI free -- but STFree is very clear that that's not the purpose of the program. What they're trying to do is encourage couples to talk about STIs and getting tested, and encourage people to be educated and responsible.
And it's certainly better than going into it completely blind.
Now, STFree has upped the ante with Chec-Mate, which provides a similar service without cards or phone calls.
"We are excited that advancements in technology have provided us with an opportunity to be the first to provide the world a secure platform to safely exchange lifesaving information” says Eli Dancy, founder of STFree Certifications.
The app, which is currently only available for iPhone, can be downloaded at the Apple App Store for $1.99, which includes a year of activation. Users download the app, register and receive a confirmation e-mail which includes a Screening Verification Form (SVF) attachment.
The user uses the app to find an authorized screening facility, make an appointment, take their form, turn it in, and get screened. When their screening is complete, the SVF form is returned with the screening results. Users then follow the instructions on the SVF form to submit their results to STFree for full app activation.
"Today's smart phones provide people with information on any and everything we can possibly think of -- why not information that can save your life?" STFree president Patrick Malcolm says. "Doctors and health professionals have been telling us for years to make informed decision by exchanging screening information before becoming intimate. We are simply providing a simple and safe information path."
As with the Safer Sex License, Chec-Mate doesn't guarantee that the individual doesn't have an STI, but brings one that much closer safer sex and open communication. Per their site: "The Chec-Mate application was developed to provide application users with a safe, secure and confidential platform to share important STI/HIV screening information and prevent individuals from providing false or misleading screening results that can be produced solely using outdated paper methods."
Currently, Check-Mate doesn't have bump technology, but that feature is in development. In time, it could even be integrated as part of the getting-to-know process, being integrated with dating sites so profiles show whether a user has an account and is open to disclosure. The question remains: would people go for that?