Many intimate encounters begin with some simple questions. “Tell me what your interests are, who you be wit,” as the late Notorious B.I.G once put it. But too often the last thing consenting adults want to discuss is the most important: whether or not they have contracted any sexually transmitted diseases.
It’s not sexy. We get it. But neither is having to treat an STI (assuming it is treatable) after a night of tequila infused Truth or Dare . To help raise awareness and create comfort around the discussion of sexual health, Alonzo Davis, a former Vice President at a well known financial institution, has launched a social network called JustBeenTested.com.
Launched in January, the community’s mission is to encourage those who are sexually active to get tested regularly for sexually transmitted infections and to build a community of leaders who will foster an open dialogue about sexual health and safe practices.
“The same way you show off your last trip to brazil or the new BMW, show off the fact that you know your sexual health,” says Davis, who lost an uncle to AIDS in the 1990s. “Be just as proud of the fact that you got tested.”
In recognition of Black HIV Awareness Day TheUrbanDaily.com sat caught up with Davis to talk about the realities of a network like this, concerns about privacy and how to change the way people think about their sexual health.
TUD: What inspired you to do a site of this nature?
Alonzo Davis: There are a few factors that inspired the concept of my site. I suffered the loss of my uncle due to AIDS in the early 90s and remember the toll it took on his health and his loved ones as they helped him cope with his infection. Through volunteer work I have also met several people living with AIDs and incurable STIs and they always encouraged me to get over any fear that I may have about getting tested for the sake of others. Mentioning how hurt they felt that they were responsible for infecting others due to high risk behavior and being unaware of their own health. I also felt like the current initiatives to encourage people to get tested and prevent unplanned pregnancies are outdated and boring. I think JBT changes that.
What is your mission statement/goal ?
Our goal is to promote healthy sexual habits and popularize the practice of getting tested regularly for STIs. To do this, we incorporate what is popular, mainly meeting people and giving your opinion. JBT has all the basic social networking functions of a Facebook: internal emails, 1-on-1 chat function, wall posts for comments and pictures. We have a written and video blog about sex and pop culture. There are even forums for members to create their own topics to discuss music, TV, fashion, sports, entertainment, etc. . All you can do, but not without seeing tabs that say “get tested”, “birth control”, “STIs”, etc. I hope the message will sink in.
What are the challenges in building a community like this?
We are striving to build a community of like minded individuals who aim to be sexually responsible and want to meet others who are aware of their own sexual health. Getting people to understand that the pros of knowing your status outweigh the cons. The fear is real, I understand, but the longer you go without knowing your sexual health the faster you could be running out of options. Was it Jadakiss who said “Options are a beautiful thing.” Curable STIs, if left untreated leave you more susceptible to incurable infections. Asking people to step out of their blissful ignorance is difficult, and people expect the worse when it comes to getting tested. People living with STDs will tell you that life goes on, and it does.
How do you ensure the privacy of your users?
We do not display last names, personal emails, date of birth and other sensitive info. Facebook gives you the options to hide or display certain info. We don’t give those options, we just hide them. All communications between members happen through chat, forums and the internal messaging system. All passwords are encrypted so even someone with access to the database cannot view the passwords. We do not sell the member info.
Can someone join if they don’t want to share their testing info?
Yes. You can treat it like any social network to meet people. There is nothing mandatory about the site. We’re hoping that you’ll keep coming back to the site because you like it, see the reminders and get tested eventually.
What are some of your website’s features?
In-depth review on over 12 methods of birth control. Information about STIs and condom use. Blog about relationships, sex, and pop culture topics. Point system for people to earn points by interacting on the site and getting tested, the highest points earners win gifts of their choice up to designated dollar amounts. Test Date Verification.
What is Test Date Verification?
One unique feature of JBT’s platform is our Test Date Verification. This service allows members to have their latest STI testing date displayed on their member page. With Test Date Verification, a verified test date shows that the member was tested on a specific date. Due to confidentiality and privacy concerns, JBT does not provide any information as to the results of the test. Such information is left to the member to share with the JBT community. JBT never receives a member’s test results; members only authorize the screening facility to release the STI-related test date information to JBT solely for the purpose of updating the “Test Date” section of a member’s page on the site. JBT uses this test date to remind members to get tested again at a future date.
How can I help spread the word to my friends?
Watch the intro clip to JustBeenTested.com below:
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