Sex Talks with the Tree: The Tree talks STI testing with

May 31, 2013, 2:59 p.m.

It is midnight as you stumble out of the sweat-infused, crowded bar. Your ears ring from drunken whispers and cheesy-yet-fabulous sing-along songs. The fresh air outside gives you a few moments of much-needed clarity after your dose of one-too-many designer cocktails. But you are not alone; next to you is a guy or gal who you want to take home. You have been kissing, and their use of just the right amount of tongue makes you want to take them back to your place and ravage them. Stop. You just met a random person at the bar: how can you trust that he or she is sexually safe?


I have always been that girl who makes it a requirement for my partner to get tested before we can be intimate together. Though I feel safer about this in the long run, the necessary amount of self-control is difficult to sustain, especially if I am in the embrace of a man and most of the blood that runs through my brain has swiftly surged and swelled elsewhere. What if asking the question, “Have you been tested?” became faster, easier, safer and more reliable? is a new resource that works with your health care provider to share safely your most recent STI results with your potential partner, lover or one-night stand. Already featured on CNN, The Huffington Post, CBS News and in The New York Post, boasts: “Spread the love, [and] nothing else.”


Creator and CEO Ramin Bastani started when a girl slapped him in the face after he asked if she’d been tested. According to Bastani and, the “…key component missing in HIV and STD prevention today is shareability. To make informed sexual health decisions, you must not only be informed about your own health, but also about your partner’s health as well. We enable you to privately share your STD status however you choose. We believe that sharing is a good thing and that it can lead to better sexual health decisions, more (safe) sex and fewer STDs.” also features maps that show all of the local testing centers in your area, making it even easier and safer to stay on top of your health and your partner.


I was so excited to join this revolutionary service that I immediately logged on and created a profile. It was easy to sign up; the first step requires you to sign a HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) agreement online, requesting your recent STI results from your health care provider. Normally, helps to make this process informative, fast and easy, but for some reason Vaden denied my request for a healthier sex life.


Upon further investigation, one Vaden representative told me, “Our obligation and priority is to see that the student has his/her health information if he/she wants or needs it. We release information to the student, and the student can then pass the information on to the third party. There are, of course exceptions, most of which involve medical treatment or legal requests. A disclosure to a ‘third party health source’ such as the one you describe below is a requested disclosure with authorization–HIPAA considers this type of disclosure to be “permissible” but not required.”


Though Vaden allowed me to view my records, they did not allow me to release them to a third party (though this is allowed and encouraged by HIPAA law), and smartly does not accept medical results unless they come directly from a doctor. Unfortunately, a sketchy and untrustworthy person could alter their own records and then send them in. But alas, has thought of everything to ensure their customers’ safety and privacy. only accepts valid and accurate secure records directly from a testing center.


I had the privilege to interview David Harlow, a seasoned and accomplished healthcare privacy and security attorney, whose expertise includes being a charter member of the external Advisory Board of the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media, and recipient of an “Rx for Excellence–Heroes From the Field” award in 2010 by the weekly law publication, The Massachusetts Medical Law Report. The basic idea behind HIPAA is “to protect the individual,” Harlow argues.


“[What is best for the patient] is not for the clinic to decide,” notes Harlow. Harlow continues that there is no downside to releasing authorized medical records to a third party like; the key of HIPAA law is to protect the patient, not healthcare providers who may not morally support a new company such as has already worked with Stanford rival schools UCLA and USC, who have not only been legally supportive, but have also praised this new significant resource that can help keep their students even safer. Perhaps it is just my former Tree self who feels competitive, but I like it when Stanford wins; from football, to tennis to psychology, Stanford has always strived for the best and pioneered in every field. Why stop now? As a graduating senior, I would like to contribute to my beloved alma mater to help protect the overall health of all future generations of Stanford students.




Here are a few take-away points and Q and A’s for you about, sexual health and the law:


Is legal?

Yes. With an expert team of legal and health specialists, has spent years ensuring that user requests are HIPAA compliant. Though some healthcare centers–such as Vaden, may have the best intentions, legally, patients have a right to choose how their healthcare is managed and dispensed.


Can people search my results online? What about my privacy?

Testing results are not made public or searchable on the web. Results are only shared or viewed by persons that the user chooses.


If I see someone’s results, and they are all negative, does this mean I can have unprotected sex?

No, not necessarily. Some STI’s are not tested for on a routine basis (for example, HPV and herpes). In addition, someone could have been exposed to something in the time since his or her last test. Unfortunately, the only 100 percent safe sex is abstinence. Seeing a person’s results is not a foolproof plan, and you should still use and be familiar with other forms of contraception and barrier methods. However, helps partners to start healthy sexual conversations and helps to create a society in which caring and knowing about sexual health becomes the norm.


If Vaden provides me with my STI records, why can’t I just send these in to myself if Vaden will not?

As states, “A critical component of is that we independently confirm the results directly from the clinic to ensure they are valid and accurate. This is what separates someone’s results from someone on a dating site saying they’ve recently been ‘tested.’

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