Possible alternative titles: 1. Calmara’s Bold Claim: Detecting STIs Through Photos of Genitals 2. Debunking Calmara’s Risky Proposition: STI Detection through Genital Photos 3. The Controversial Theory of Calmara: Using Gen

So, your partner could very well have an STI, but Calmara would tell you he’s in the clear. That’s why actual STI tests use blood and urine samples to detect infection, as opposed to a visual exam. It does not involve any medical conditions or discussions within its framework, and no medical doctors are involved with the current Calmara experience. “The clear idea is to initiate a conversation regarding STI status and testing.”Calmara is part of HeHealth, which was founded in 2019. Calmara and HeHealth use the same AI, which it says is 65-90% accurate.

You’ve found yourself on a Tinder date, and things are heating up. But the looming question remains – how do you protect yourself from contracting an STI from someone you barely know or trust?

Well, according to a company called Calmara, all you need to do is take a photo of your potential partner’s penis and let their AI technology determine if they are “clear” of any infections.

Before we dive into the details, let’s make one thing clear: taking a photo of someone’s genitalia and relying on an AI tool to make a decision about your sexual health is not a good idea.

The concept of Calmara is more concerning than a disastrous first date, especially when you consider that a majority of STIs show no symptoms. This means that even if their AI says your partner is “clear,” they could still potentially have an STI. The only accurate way to determine if someone is infected is through lab testing, which uses blood and urine samples rather than a visual examination.

Fortunately, other startups are tackling the issue of accessible and reliable STI testing in a more responsible manner.

“With lab diagnosis, sensitivity and specificity are two key measures that help us understand the test’s accuracy in detecting infections and false positives,” explains Daphne Chen, founder of TBD Health. “Even with rigorous testing, there is always some margin of error. That’s why test manufacturers like Roche are transparent about their validation rates – so clinicians can interpret the results correctly.”

While Calmara may warn in fine print that their findings are not a substitute for medical advice, their marketing suggests otherwise. Prior to TechCrunch reaching out, their website boasted the title “Calmara: Your Intimate Bestie for Unprotected Sex” (which has since been changed to “Safer Sex.”) In a promotional video, they boldly claim to be “The PERFECT WEBSITE for HOOKING UP!”

According to co-founder and CEO Mei-Ling Lu, Calmara was not intended to be a serious medical tool. “Calmara is a lifestyle product, not a medical app. It does not involve any medical conditions or discussions within its framework, and no medical doctors are involved with the current Calmara experience. It is a free information service,” she says.

However, upon further examination, it seems that Calmara is just one branch of HeHealth, a company founded in 2019. Both Calmara and HeHealth use the same AI technology, which they claim is 65-90% accurate. While HeHealth positions itself as the first step towards assessing sexual health, their platform also helps users connect with partner clinics for comprehensive testing.

While this approach may seem more reassuring than Calmara’s, that’s not saying much. And even then, there is another cause for concern – data privacy.

“It’s good to see that they offer an anonymous mode where you don’t have to link your photos to personally identifiable information,” says Valentina Milanova, founder of Daye, a tampon-based STI screening startup. “However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that their service completely protects your identity, as your photos could still potentially be traced back to your email or IP address.”

Additionally, Calmara and HeHealth claim to be HIPAA compliant for protecting patient confidentiality, as they use Amazon Web Services. While this may sound reassuring, Calmara’s privacy policy states that they share user information with “service providers and partners who assist in service operation, including data hosting, analytics, marketing, payment processing, and security.” They also fail to specify if the AI scans are done on the user’s device or in the cloud, how long the data is kept, and for what purposes it is used. This lack of clarity does not instill confidence in users that their intimate photos are truly safe.

But the risks associated with this technology go beyond just user privacy – there are also ethical and legal implications. For instance, what happens if a minor uses the website for STI testing? In that scenario, Calmara could potentially possess child sexual abuse material. Their disclaimer in their terms of service that minors are strictly prohibited from using the site may not hold up in court.

Calmara serves as an example of the dangers of overhyped technology. While it may seem like a clever way for HeHealth to capitalize on the excitement surrounding AI, the actual execution of Calmara only gives users a false sense of security about their sexual health. This has serious consequences.

Chen shares her perspective on the issue: “Sexual health is a tricky space to innovate within, and I can see where their intentions are noble. However, I think they may have rushed to market with a solution that is not yet fully developed.”

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Zara Khan

Zara Khan is a seasoned investigative journalist with a focus on social justice issues. She has won numerous awards for her groundbreaking reporting and has a reputation for fearlessly exposing wrongdoing.

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