April 19, 2012
The website inSPOTLA.org, a Los Angeles STD partner notification service chiefly targeting men who have sex with men (MSM), is the subject of the current study. Launched in 2005, the site has had more than 400,000 visitors, and more than 50,000 e-mail postcards have been sent from it. But only limited quantitative data have been collected concerning the use of the site "for actual partner notification," observed the authors, who undertook this study to investigate MSM's awareness and use of the service, as well as the effect of an advertising campaign.
The researchers accessed data from two cross-sectional surveys using time-location samples; the baseline survey was conducted in 2007, with follow-up in 2009. The ad campaign took place between the two surveys, in 2008.
No statistically different awareness of inSPOTLA was noted between baseline (15.8 percent) and follow-up (14.4 percent). Also, no significant difference was seen in reported use of the site for partner notification (less than 2 percent in both surveys).
In addition to the two surveys, a high-volume sexual health clinic serving Los Angeles MSM collected information on patients' reasons for visiting, including being referred through inSPOTLA, from all clients from 2007 through 2009. In these three years, two patients indicated their visit was prompted by an inSPOTLA e-mail postcard.
"While website user statistics seemed to indicate an impressive level of use, our evaluation of inSPOTLA found very limited evidence of program effectiveness for the purpose of actual partner notification among MSM in Los Angeles County," the team concluded.