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Planning an interactive safer sex calculator [Feb. 16th, 2012|03:28 am]
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Most people can't accurately gauge probability and risk. And even if they could, they would need the right data to base their evaluation on. Did you know that when trying to avoid HIV, protected sex with a partner of unknown serostatus is 2.4x as dangerous as unprotected sex with a partner who tested negative? I want to put this information and the risk analysis into a calculator, probably in the form of an html+javascript app.

The core premise on which I'm basing this project is that the risk of specific acts in specific scenarios can be determined through scientific studies. Many acts and scenarios have been studied already. From those studies we can deduce the relative risk of each factor (http://ww2.aegis.com/files/AskDoc_refs/varghese2002-29-1.pdf), such as how much safe a condom is, how much safer each sex act is, how much safer each test result is, etc.

What I'd like to present to the user is a form. My first draft of the form is something like this (including bisexuals is difficult. including the transgendered is impossible for lack of data):

Your age:
Your expected life span:
Your sex: M/F
Your partner(s) sex: M/F/Both
Your continent or country (for looking up average infection rates):
Your acceptable life-long risk of contracting...
 A) incurable fatal STDs (HIV): ____%
 B) curable fatal STDs (syphilis): ____%
 C) incurable nonfatal STDs (HSV): ____%
 D) curable nonfatal STDs (gonhorrea): ____%

How often do you have intimate contact with your partner(s)? ___ times per year
Have your partner(s) tested negative for [_] A, [_] B, [_]C, [_]D?
Have your partner(s) tested positive for [_] A, [_] B, [_]C, [_]D?

What acts do you perform regularly with your partner(s)?
          Condom?   Yes   No
Give Oral Sex       ___  ___
Receive Oral Sex    ___  ___
Vaginal Sex         ___  ___
Give Anal Sex       ___  ___
Receive Anal Sex    ___  ___

How often do your partner(s) have intimate contact with other partner(s)? ___ times per year
Have your partner(s)' partner(s) tested negative for [_] A, [_] B, [_]C, [_]D?
Have your partner(s)' partner(s) tested positive for [_] A, [_] B, [_]C, [_]D?

What acts do your partner(s) perform regularly with their other partner(s)?
          Condom?   Yes   No
Give Oral Sex       ___  ___
Receive Oral Sex    ___  ___
Vaginal Sex         ___  ___
Give Anal Sex       ___  ___
Receive Anal Sex    ___  ___


So, after you fill out the risk and frequency sections near the top, parts of the bottom would immediately grey out, indicating those things are completely incompatible with your desired risk. Maybe your partners need to always use a condom, or only have other partners who have tested negative. Maybe YOU need to always use a condom. Or maybe you put entirely unrealistic numbers in at the top (sex 10 times a day for 60 years and you want a 0% chance of contracting HSV? not gonna happen) and the entire bottom section will grey out.

One goal of this project is those occasions. If the greying out step disables acts you want to perform, then you would be led to some helpful information on risk profiles. If you really want to have unprotected vaginal intercourse, even with just your monogamous partner who is regularly tested, you MUST accept that there is a >0% chance of contracting some STI over the course of your next 30 years of active sex life (around .005% for HIV, actually). Getting people to think about this risk in realistic numbers will qualify as a success here. I, personally, before doing this research, couldn't have said if 0.1% or 0.0001% was closer to accurate for that scenario, and that's a huge difference.

Once you've seen how the chart greys out, then you'll have the option to continue. You will be able to enter a mode where you can check off all of the things that you want to do, and see what your partner can still be allowed to do. Simply put, for some combination of settings, if you don't use a condom with your partner then they have to use one with theirs, but if you do use a condom then they can go without with their other partners. Or, if you know the testing status of all your partners' partners, then you or they can forgo the condoms. Or some other combination of risk factors. Alternately, you can check off all the things you want in both bottom sections and see what happens to the calculated risk profile relative to the risk you input at the beginning.

Every piece of the form would have some way to link to the source of the information. I'd have to draw from dozens or hundreds of studies and papers to get all of the relevant data.

I'd appreciate feedback on how you might want to see this work differently. What other data should I use in the calculations? How should I present the results? Would you find this useful?
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: vortex
2012-02-16 11:57 am (UTC)

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The only useful thing would be to always use a condom. (The one time I didn't, on a one night fling, I got HIV)

You really don't know what your partner is going to do from one day to the next. They might have a one night fling with someone (possibly HIV positive) and not tell you and both of you could test negative for at least a year before you know that one or both of you have HIV...
[User Picture]From: hermitgeecko
2012-02-16 01:39 pm (UTC)

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Because I love algorithms and statistics, I want to see this exist.

However, this seems like it could be dangerous in the wrong hands and like it would be begging for litigation in the other wrong hands. If you do put this together, please have a lawyer take a fast look and figure out what you need to put on it to keep from getting (successfully) sued.
[User Picture]From: hermitgeecko
2012-02-16 01:41 pm (UTC)

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"dangerous in the wrong hands" - in the sense that people might use your numbers to make very bad decisions (or to convince other people to make very bad decisions.)
[User Picture]From: xochitl
2012-02-16 02:41 pm (UTC)

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This makes me want to join a nunnery. lol
[User Picture]From: cynara_linnaea
2012-02-16 02:45 pm (UTC)

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You might want to factor in the likelihood of a partner (or a partner's partner) giving an inaccurate testing status. No clue how you might get data on it, though.
[User Picture]From: cos
2012-02-20 06:24 am (UTC)

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Work with melebeth. She majored in math, and then studied statistics afterward. She's a sex educator, and for the past N years (I forget how many) has been the editor of http://std.about.com/ In other words, she is the perfect person to work on something like this, if she's interested, and the end result would be much better for her participation.

Do you know her? Or shall I point her at this LJ post?
[User Picture]From: sparr0
2012-02-20 06:27 am (UTC)

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I don't know her. Send her over here, we should chat.