Are positive antibody tests a reliable ‘all clear’? Dating safely during a pandemic

Credit: Joshua Seong
Credit: Joshua Seong

As cases surge again, many wonder whether it is safe to even consider meeting new people in any social context—let alone potential sexual partners.

Some online daters have adapted to the new normal and proudly declare on their profiles that they are “COVID-antibody-positive,” apparently implying they have already had the virus and are now in the clear to freely comingle. The COVID-19 pandemic is still solidly entrenched around the globe, with no immediately available vaccine or cure. Does an antibody-positive test result translate to a pandemic dating hall pass?

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“The data is clear that we don’t know what is clear,” says Peter Chin-Hong,an infectious disease specialist and a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. Even though antibody tests help determine whether someone has previously been infected with the virus, that information may not be helpful in the dating realm.

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“There are a variety of tests, so just stating you’re ‘antibody-positive’ doesn’t provide evidence that equips someone to discern whether the test is [Food and Drug Administration–validated] or specific to COVID. And we don’t know how long antibodies from natural infections last. We’re already starting to see reinfections emerge. Even if someone got a positive test result X time ago, that doesn’t mean they’re currently protected. It’s not a passport to sexual freedom.”

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