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STD’s in a Digital World: 6 Things to Consider in the STD Dating Conversation

Social media gives us the awesome potential of shared experiences and a digital dating phenomenon. Now more ways to use it.

Whether you’re ready to settle down and have a family with the “right one” or motivated to join the online dating masses in search of your prince (or princess). Discussing your sexual history with a new partner can be a complicated subject. Regardless of the risk, a surprising amount of people are not talking about STDs in their dating life. And according the American Sexual Health Association, only 12% of people have been tested for an STI in the past year. That leaves a lot open for discussion. So how do you navigate this tricky convo? What the hell do you say to start? Is it better to wait or initiate it right away?

From fresh relationships to your promising new date, the possibility of getting down anddirty and sharing bodily fluids is already high. It’s a reward seeking, pleasure driven world, and sex is part of that. We are wired to seek rewards to release oxytocin, the “happy” drug, which is also released during sex. Yep, the main neurochemical player in falling in and out of love (and sex) is oxytocin. It floods your body, connecting you to your partner.

Let’s face it with the rise in online dating, there has been a rise in STD cases. Most dating apps decline to get involved with acknowledging their part in what the CDC now calls an STD epidemic, but that doesn’t change the numbers. Recent statistics state one in five people have an STI. There have been over 1.5 million new cases of chlamydia, about 395,000 new cases of gonorrhea and nearly 24,000 cases of syphilis. (as of 2016) You don’t need to be a sexpert to understand the connection. Whether you’re looking for a hook up, a mind-bending sex connection, or ready to commit, these top five things can make the (hopefully) pre-sex STD talk, easier.

Personality.

An open mind that is not reluctant to approach upfront conversation for the possibility of long term gains is a great place to start. Dating can be nerve racking as it is, so why not have transparency for transparency sake? Dig into your personality style, and approach the conversation confidently. Three main personality types are, assertive, data gatherers and accommodators. Self-explanatory right? The rub is they all approach and prefer very different conversation styles. The assertive wants to dive right in. The data gatherer wants, well, hard data, and the  accommodator wants to connect and empathize with you. Just starting the conversation with an open mind leads to a greater chance of having a healthy STD conversation. 

Confidentiality. 

Repeatedly, online service providers have proven that most people are willing the let go of a little privacy for convenience. We order everything online from food, to electronics, genetic DNA, and counseling services. Why not your sexual health?

More apps are available to provide confidential at home STD testing with lab accurate results, right from your phone. Mately provides a membership service for monthly testing and the ability to share test results on your dating profiles. Right now, it’ssharable on Tinder and Grindr. The STD results are secure and unsearchable, according the Mately founder, Brandon Greenberg. CheckMate is a free app offering athome or in lab STD testing at various levels with a pin prick. The results are sharable with a “badge” through text, email, or dating profiles, and the results disappear after they have been viewed. Keeping your STD status confidential. CheckMates founder, Marc Schoenenberg, a medical professional, states results are usually available within 48 hours. These services focus on prevention, and directly relate to your sexual health.

With easy access (pun intended) there is no excuse for not getting tested. If there was an app to determine your mate’s mental health would you use it to forgo future problems? Why not use an app to determine your mate’s sexual health, or STD status?

Approach. 

How you want to start the conversation is a varied as the dating sites available to find your mate. It can be something as simple as “Let’s get tested together.” “I really care about you. I want to make sure we are both healthy.” or “I feel like we are going in the right direction, so I wanted to open this conversation.” As with most things, approaching a conversation with compassion, vulnerability, and some facts will help your outcome. If you’re looking for a more unified approach, Neat Club offers a dating site for those providing their STD status with other possible mates. And Positive Singles provides a dating site for people who are STD positive. Both are already having the conversation.

Cost.

Getting tested isn’t cost prohibitive even without health insurance, and the preventative benefits to the small up-front costs will far outweigh long-term health problems related to your sexual health. Both Mately and CheckMate provide several price options to get tested, ranging from $70 – $279, with Mately’s monthly membership fee at $30.

The annual cost of STD’s to our healthcare system is $16 million dollars, and recent CDC studies show STD’s are again on the rise. The president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, Michael Weinstein, calls on dating sites like Tinder and Grinder— which have some 50 million and 10 million users, respectively — and according to Weinstein, they aren’t doing enough in prevention. “I don’t think they feel it’s their responsibility.”

Weinstein said. Time for dating apps to team up with testing apps for online transparency? That’s a business decision, but seems like one that would make sense.

Age. 

The fastest growing rate of STD infection is among 15-24-year old’s, but that doesn’t mean everyone else is off the hook. There has also been a 20% rise in STD cases in people over 45. STDs don’t discriminate, but you can determine who you have sex with and when. If you’re willing to get naked with this person, shouldn’t you be able to have “the conversation” no matter what your age?

The STD conversation will help keep you safe and create more intimacy for current or future relationships, even if that doesn’t include long term right now. Age doesn’t determine the ability to talk about STDs, but it can certainly make it easier. People tend to become more comfortable with a few years under their belt, and possibly a few more sexual partners. There are plenty of things to help predict your dating IQ and with age, comes experience. However, it doesn’t always mean open conversation. STI’s don’t have to be the end of your dating world, there are plenty dealing with this conversation.

The point is to lower that number, be safe, and be smart about your own health.

Support. 

Like life, dating, sex, break-ups and STD’s (not in that order) are complicated. Many of us are driven by the three second emotionally driven rush of swiping right. Every type of reward seeking behavior that has been studied increases the level of dopamine transmission in the brain. And with the rapid increase in STD’s and more covert ways of hooking up, making them harder to track, it’s more important we have the right information and resources to turn to.

Interested in calculating how many people you’ve slept with? Or rather, been exposed to within six degrees of connection? Sexual Exposure Calculator is a clever tool that asks you to input the number of people you’ve had sex with and get a resulting number of the real range of sexual partners you’ve been exposed to. It’s worth a look.

Another proper tool to find STD testing options in your area is the Safer STD Testing website. Knowing you can share your information with loved ones, your mate, or someone anonymously can provide a sense of relief and emotional stability. This tools is a great start. Another worthwhile site is The STD Project run by the founder of Positive Singles as a resource for shared stories, supported conversations and a wide range of sexual health tools. This is a place for those grey areas of living with an STD no one wants to talk about.

With any support tool the goal is to peel back the layers and find (and participate in) objective, unbiased, information based in logic. Especially when it comes to our health.

With social media we have the awesome potential of shared experiences and a digital dating phenomenon, that is now a multibillion dollar business. But by getting more information and requesting more ways to share individual STD status, we can help eliminate some of the stigma behind it.

The STD conversation is about progress and communication. Be part of the movement to revolutionize your love life. Make the STD conversation a priority, and go from knowing what to do, to doing it. Take your first step. You may be kissing a lot of frogs to meet your prince, but at least you can do it safely.

Interested in more on sexual health? Try associate professor, Justin Lehmiller’s Sex & Psychology blog.


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