EDIT: Since STDCarriers was spamming Newsvine, and hence removed from the site, links to that site have been removed from this article.
Yesterday I stumbled across a user account on Newsvine which had me wondering. The account is STDCarriers, and the name was immediately intriguing. So I followed the link to the website being described in the profile bio, and found STD Carriers Disease Control and Prevention Services.
The site explains itself as follows:
STD Carriers was founded as and still is the first public early warning alert system for identifying potential sources of incurable sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). The International Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) Carrier Registry is database driven list of people with HIV/AIDS, Genital Herpes, HPV, Genital Warts, and Hepatitis C. Our automated content management system (CMS) utilized the power of modern information technology to provide a real time information storage and distribution service that is fully operational 24 hours a day 7 days a week.
So basically, the idea is that if you are thinking of having sexual relations with an individual you can type their name into the site to see if they are listed as suffering from any of the above diseases. This immediately raises some flags for me, so I thought I'd bring a discussion here to see what other people think.
The first issue for me is that in many countries your medical data is considered private. What is the legality of listing medical conditions against names and other identifiable data? While South Africa does not seem to be listed on the site, I know that anyone disclosing this information would be breaking the law here. As the legal disclaimers on the site make clear the site owners are not publishing information, but provide a platform for others to do so. Legally they're protected, but morally they're bankrupt.
Secondly, how accurate is the information? One would think that, given the stigma related to STD's and the huge potential repercussions for named individuals, the site owners would take care to ensure that the information listed is accurate. Imagine finding your spouse's name on the site, for instance. However, as the following disclaimer makes clear (well, clear to those who can read 0.8 font online), the site does not verify accuracy at all:
The people listed in this section of this website are listed by the public on the condition that the information being submitted is in fact true and genuine. It is possible for inaccurate information to be submitted for reasons including, but not necessarily limited to the following; a false positive (a test resulting in a diagnosis of a sexually transmitted disease when in fact the person does not have the disease), a fabrication by the person inserting the data, a false rumor, an inaccurate published source, or a false statement by a third party. Since false listings are possible this site does not assert that any person listed does in fact have a sexually transmitted disease or that statements made about them are true. If you believe that someone has been wrongfully listed please visit our Record Removal Page.
In other words, anyone is free to make any claim regarding anyone else's private medical status, and the site will make no attempt to verify it whatsoever. If you have been falsely listed there is a simple 12(!) step process to get your record removed. Step 7 involves getting a doctor to test you and assure the site owners that you are, in fact, STD free. In other words, absolutely anybody can claim that you have an STD, with no verification process involved at all, yet you have to prove the opposite to get the record removed. In other words, your infection is presumed on the rumoured say-so of anybody at all, and it is up to you to prove otherwise, at your cost, and at risk of exposing more personal information. Step 12 asks you to do whatever necessary to "make them pay for what they did." While the site seems to have an "Evil doers section" they do absolutely nothing to properly sanction people posting inaccurate information to the site. The onus is upon you to not only check the site to see if you are erroneously listed, but also to prove that you do not "deserve" to be should it be the case that you are. The "Evil doers sections" is populated primarily by "Unknown" entities, meaning that no attempt is made to help the wronged. So, while absolute verification is required for removal, none is required for listing.
I also have to wonder about the fascination with STD's to the exclusion of other diseases. I do not believe such a registry is appropriate for any disease, but of everyone I know 99.9% of them would never catch an STD from me if I had one, simply because we would not have a sexual relationship. But diseases such as TB, German measles and others are much more easily transmitted and have serious medical consequences. As a public service (which this site claims to be) these diseases should be included because more casual relationships (in the office or school, for instance) can lead to their transmission. STD's are notoriously difficult to catch because their transmission requires sex, which is actually a fairly rare behaviour when compared to the other things we do with our days.
Finally, the section on celebrity STD carriers nails the site's true colours to the mast. If this is, in fact, an attempt at public service it has no need to list celebrities separately. When last did you get the opportunity to sleep with a celebrity? And if you have had such a chance, would you really have needed a separate section to find them on this site? This is a voyeuristic and unconscionable website, existing purely for the display of emotions such as vengeance, anger, jealousy, libelous intent, and any other reason that anybody can come up with at all.
So, what do you think? Personally I find the site repulsive. Even if they could verify every report it would be an affront to medical privacy. The fact that they cannot, and expect a medical certificate to repudiate an anonymous posting, makes it even more revolting. The site uses words like "we" and "us", suggesting that it is an organisation of a number of people. However, the fact that you should let them know when your doctor's certificate is on the way because "This will cause the post office box to be checked more frequently" suggests that it is run by a single individual with a rather unpleasant axe to grind.
If you don't want to catch an STD then behave accordingly - limit your number of partners, don't sleep with strangers, and use a condom. The idea that an anonymously posted allegation can protect you is a complete fallacy. A site such as this, while protected by free speech rules, has no role to play in public health.