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What to say // What not to say: STIs and dating apps

October 5, 2015

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By Elijah McKinnon, Digital Communications Coordinator

“What to say // What not to say” is a series that explores the nuances associated with navigating topics related to HIV and AIDS, sexual health and relationships.

There’s no denying that the birth of apps and websites like Grindr, Tinder and OKCupid have forever changed the dating landscape. According to a study conducted by the University of California-Berkeley, one in 10 Americans have used a dating site or mobile app. But how do you go about discussing HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) via dating apps without putting a damper on a hot and heavy conversation?

Dating used to be a slow process that involved various levels of interaction – courtship, the uncommitted stage, the commitment stage – but has been simplified to the artless act of swiping either left or right on one’s iPhone. We continue to hear more and more about “hook-up culture,” or fast-forwarding past the first date and pressing play in the bedroom, but we fail to discuss the role that prevention and sexual health plays in this convenient, yet dicey landscape. Hook-up and dating-app culture is here, so let’s reframe the narrative by making the discussion around HIV and STIs via the digital realm more accessible.

Should you decide to join the millions of individuals on dating apps and sites, what you choose to disclose is entirely in the palm of your hands. For your reference, we’ve consulted with some dating app experts to see what they recommend saying — as well as what’s better left unsaid — when you’re chatting up your next coffee date or sexual conquest.

What to say: What is your status and when was the last time you were tested for HIV and STIs?

One of the best ways to start the dialogue is to be straight up; don’t turn it into a big deal. “I feel like it should be like asking the person what is their favorite color,” says Diego Alberto Torres-Galvan, a 28-year-old community manager at Handy – an app to book trusted home cleaners and handymen – from Oakland, CA. There are so many things that get lost in translation when we communicate over digital platforms, so it’s best to stick to the basics and try not to overcomplicate things.

Torres-Galvan further explains, “HIV is something everyone should be talking about, just like the same way we feel comfortable asking a guy we want to hook up with [if he] is either a bottom or top — there’s no reason why it should be something to be afraid to talk about.” The bottom line for Torres-Galvan is this: If you’re open to talking about getting sexually involved with a person on a dating app or website, you should feel just as comfortable discussing all of the juicy details in between.