I haven't seen a dead horse beaten in a long time. I think it is about due.
I can see something like this flying for a swinger resort like Hedonism II. Folks plan those kinds of vacations pretty carefully-and the costs of testing isn't that much compared to the rest of the vacation package.
I checked a vacation package for a Hedonism resort and for 5 days, it was $2500 for two people.
I find it very plausible that some folks might prefer such a vacation for $3100 and have some assurance that other guests at their destination were tested STD-(particularly when you consider there is already a pool of folk that are already testing regularly and would just have to have results faxed).
A lot of technical advances start out on the high end and then gradually filter down.
I'm not sure what the smaller high-end swingers resorts are like--but there sure seem to be a bunch of them around.
I haven't seen a dead horse beaten in a long time. I think it is about due.
There are fish in the water that haven't been caught yet.
Here is another one for you.
R (He is R, she is P)
Simply from an economic standpoint I would like to see more STD testing offered to the swinging community. As a rule, NO protection is 100%. We have an opportunity here as a subculture to promote testing.
This may not be in line with the Club idea, but anonymous testing at the club for a minimal fee will certainly do two things:
1. Those with positive results will most likely see treatment.
2. As a result of more testing the costs and stigma of testing will drop.
I believe as a community concerned about sexual health it is incumbent upon us to promote testing along with safe sex. This opinion is not meant as a "free ticket" for unsafe sex but rather a duty to bring testing to wider audience and make it more available.
Here's the thing: testing is not exactly inexpensive. "Free" testing you see is in fact typically subsidized by public health funds. Some of the less expensive private testing resources I've seen are from home-bio-test.com
They sell instant test kits for some of the more common STD's for $20-35 per disease. Porn actors test monthly for HIV, Chlamydia, gonnorhea--and semi- annually for everything else. So the instant tests for G/C/HIV are about $85. The annual Porn star quality "everything"(includes syphillis, hep a/b/c, HIV 1/2 also and requires a blood draw) test was $410 at aim-med.org last time I checked.
There are some technologies in the pipeline that would dramatically reduce costs to about $5 for a batter of tests. The thing is we have a chicken and egg issue here because those costs won't go down until the numbers go up.
The politics here are a bit tricky. The 'official' word from public health and medical authorities in the US is that testing can do basically nothing to prevent spread of aids. Those are based largely in the analysis of gay men that "serosort" and seek out partners with the same HIV status as themselves. The problem is that those guys are in situations where they are testing infrequently and many of them aren't accurately reporting their results to each other.
I think the problem started with some of the MD's that were reporting results out of the Rajneesh community in Oregon. That community attempted to use testing early on in the AIDS epidemic-and they weren't making it it work very well. Looking back there were clear reasons:they were using tests a lot worse than what we have today, their testing intervals were infrequent to what would be needed to work, they also had a demographic group that was rather high risk in some key respects-and included quite a few very sexually active,young gay/bisexual men from those places where we are seeing things like a 5% conversion rate every 6 months. However, at one point the only stuff getting into the medical literature was from the Rajneesh docs(And they really did have some well trained docs in the community).
What AIDS came up, some public health strategy was necessary _fast_.
The two strategies that came up were the US emphasis on attempting to maximize condom use-and the approach we saw in Cuba that emphasized universal testing for HIV of their entire population every 6 months. What was also going on in Cuba was a rather good public health program(at least by 3rd word standards)-which meant simultaneous containment of a variety of other STDs.
The problem is that once any bureaucracy has made a major public health decision, they are loath to ever admit a mistake. There have also been serious questions on just how accurate the Cuban claims are. I personally think the Cuban medical authorities are more accurate in their claims than US medical authorities.
Anyhow, fast forwarding, we now have much better tests than we did 25 years ago. We've also had hundreds of thousands of Americans die. The big shift in US technology has come from drug companies that have greatly prolonged the lives of people with HIV. We also have individual organizations like AIM that have shown that by frequently testing for a variety of STD's and treating those STD's that can be treated, they can transform what was a rather high risk group for STD's to one that is at lower risk than the general population-despite a low frequency in use of condoms. However AIM has had enormous legal problems with public health in LA because the AIM approach flies in the face of what the LA public health authorities think they "know".
There are also some prominent US epidemiologists that are publicly advocating ramped up-and sometimes mandatory STD testing in the USA-claiming it is the only practical way to actually reverse the increase in the rate of HIV in the US. However, those folks appear to making that stand at the cost of seriously alienating many of their peers.(the ones I've seen were nearing retirement before they made those kinds of statements publicly).
Right now, some of the best instant tests for HIV and other STD's are made in the US. They cannot be legally sold as over the counter items in the US because of FDA regulations. They are in fact obtainable from France where those are an over the counter item-but that is a kind of "grey market" transaction(companies like Home Bio Test will ship to the US but this isn't technically legal). I have heard of a company that was backed by some gay VC types in Silicon valley that was attempting to go into clinic trials with a test that would be much better-and it was blocked from going into clinical trials for what appear to be political reasons.
A really high end club might be able to require use of AIM's testing services. I don't think that there is any other service that has the testing quality and secure delivery methods you really need. We've seen cases of folks doing stuff like forging results on a doctor's stationary or getting someone else to take a test for them. The instant tests from Home bio test are good enough and cheap enough, we might get folks to start using them. Tests for HIV, Gonorrhea and Chlamydia are $85. However, anyone that "sells" those tests is going to be in a potentially tricky legal situation. The only way I see around this legal problem is for a club to actually train someone on staff to do blood draws and do their own testing-but that may create its own legal problems and the logistics as a hassle.
One idea I have had is to create a web site for folks where they could get someone to vouch for their results without disclosing their identity-or just getting a pool of folks to start doing that on sites like Swing lifestyle. The big wild card is Herpes-which is fairly common in the lifestyle community like it is in the general population-and is frequently not disclosed. Anyhow, the basic idea of a web site like that might get around many of the legal problems-because folks aren't selling anything-just observing what each other are doing.
So I think one of the big questions here is, how is that suppose to happen? In order to answer that question, we've got to figure out how to make our numbers grow. I think you said it best when you said we've got at a chicken and the egg issue here. Testing costs will not go down until our numbers go up. However, our numbers won't go up until testing costs go down. So what to do (finanically speaking)?
Well, if we had a small group that was just big enough to have a voice, sort of like a union, then maybe we could negotiate for lower prices using collective bargaining power. Maybe we could negotiate with the biotech companies like I mentioned before. Maybe we could negotiate with service providers like AIM. Maybe we could negotiate with both of them with the goal of having the lowest cost of testing services anywhere. That would help draw people in. Furthermore, maybe we could negotiate from within our own support base for paying members to subsidize the cost of testing for those who are not able to pay, and still have the lowest cost of testing anywhere. Would it be a long shot? Sure, but those are some ideas.
Another idea is if through a series of proposed initiatives, we could demonstrate to biotech companies an accelerated growth in the testing market significantly beyond the original projections of their analysts, it may be of some interest to them. Maybe of enough interest to offer some level of support. Naturally some skepticism is to be expected. So if we had some sort of past accomplishment to point to, such as assembling a sizable group of pro testing people, we could suggest they test our claims with a token of support. They have nothing to lose. If we can produce results, great, if not, then they can withdraw their support having only made a relatively insignificant incursion against their bottom line. And as a gesture of goodwill, we could maybe even assist them in the development of these advanced tests in the works by helping to recruit people into their clinical trials. Whether or not all that could work, I don't know, but its an idea.
The question of from where the money comes from seems like one almost philosophical in nature, to which I think the simple answer is, from those who have it. If you think about it, it is those who have the deepest pockets that makes the most difference in that regard, and who's pockets would be deeper than that of the biotech companies (or at least deeper than those who can not afford the tests)? Between people needing tests, AIM, and the biotech companies my guess is that its the biotech companies who are capable of the greatest difference. Appealing to their interests (if possible) may be a good way of serving our own.
What might be helpful here is a cost benefit analysis. Meaning compare the cost of testing to the cost of medical treatment for stds, or something like that. If such an analysis supports testing, then we could make the case to those who "think" they can not afford to get tested that they can not afford to not get tested when considering healthcare costs. If the analysis does not support that conclusion, then we could use that as one of the talking points if we were to ever negotiate with biotech companies for lower prices.
As for those who really can not afford testing as opposed to those who just "think" they can not afford testing, I think there should be some sort of subsidy to help those folks out.
Although it may be that we have no other choice but to accept the cost of testing for what it is, I'd like to think a better solution exists - one that furthers the development of our community.
And if I'm not mistaken, some of AIM's offices are in relatively close proximity to the porn studios they serve. So there ya go.
Swinglifestyle, but also social networking sites, like Myspace, in order to reach a larger crowd.
The right way to think of costs:
figure $22/month of out of pocket cost for people with insurance(I am assuming quarterly testing for HIV/gonorrhea/chlamydia-and an annual comprehensive screen covered by insurance or done at a free clinic).
I don't think you can use free clinics for EVERYTHING-the reason is that they usually aren't set up with the idea of giving reports that can be shared-and are usually more set up to assure confidentiality. You need to move with the idea that you will have 3rd party validated results-and at least some of the testing is stuff that simply can't be faked(if you scale this, sooner or later some folks will use something like photoshop to fabicate a letter from their doctor).
Those costs are really is less than stuff like swing party door fees for most folks in any part of the country. For a bit more, a membership based group might offer free testing for ladies/couples that didn't have medical insurance. The way I think this would work:
you would have to set up a meeting with a member that was local who would witness the test and validate results-that doesn't even require disclosure of identity(just posting a picture someplace and having another member validate that is really who took the test).