People Are Ready to Hook up Again—Are Antibody Tests the New STI Tests?

Photo: Getty Images/Tony Anderson
If anything tells you about the times we're living in, it's the fact that people have started adding their antibody test results to their dating app bios. The blurbs on people's app profiles have taken on even more important in getting a first-glance at someone's personality now that the prospect of an IRL date sits far on the horizon. But given that the tests (which are designed to show if someone has already had COVID-19 and therefore gained some sort of immunity) have not yet proved accurate, putting them in your bio seems like an even worse idea than going with an overused quote from The Office.

"I’ve found that more and more people are bringing them up, surprisingly as the ice breaker, when trying to initiate conversation," one dating app user tells me. "Often they admit they’ve tested positive along with a joke about how we could totally meet in person since they’re immune or because I would have 'nothing to worry about.' That’s a hard pass, sir."

"In my experience, the guys who mention antibody testing are also wearing face masks, or are dressed up like bubble boy in their primary profile pictures," adds another dating app user. "One guy told me within the first few lines of conversation that he already been [antibody] tested so he was safe and I was like, 'Um, that's not how that works...'" Or, at least, that's not how the tests work yet. 

"One guy told me within the first few lines of conversation that he already been [antibody] tested so he was safe and I was like, 'Um, that's not how that works...'"

It's very possible that people are emulating another common dating app bio practice: Over the last few years, apps like Grindr and Adam4Adam, among others, have encouraged their users to disclose their latest STI test results. While STI testing detection rates for infections like chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis hover at about 90 percent (a false positive is rare, with 99 percent of tests that come back negative being accurate), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), antibody tests for COVID-19 are much newer and far more unreliable.

As Rand McClain, DO, chief medical officer of Live Cell Research, previously told Well+Good, we already know the reason why not all of the tests are delivering the correct results—now, we just need to act on what we know. Antibody tests that are accurate excel in both sensitivity and specificity. When he says "sensitivity," he's referring to the test’s ability to measure a “true positive” (someone who is most likely immune to COVID-19). Specificity, on the other hand, is defined as a test’s ability to identify immunity to this strain of coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2). The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has now started regulating the tests more closely, but still: In early April, even FDA commissioner Stephen Hahn said to “be very cautious” about most of the tests currently on the market. And, by extension, you should be very cautious of anyone who puts "antibody positive" on their profiles as a euphemism for "U up?"

As the United States slowly begins the process of reopening and the tests on the market become more regulated (and accurate as a result), a day may very well arrive when you scroll through Tinder, Hinge, Ship, or Grindr and feel good about hooking up with someone who's tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies. Until that day comes, though, go ahead and swipe left on anybody using antibodies that may or may not exist as a pick-up line.

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