June 22, 2005
InSPOT.org (Internet Notification Service for Partners or Tricks) is an e-mail service that allows gay and bisexual men to anonymously warn former partners of possible STD exposure. Thousands of people have used the service to notify up to six partners with one of six e-cards with slogans such as, "It's not what you brought to the party, it's what you left with." The e-cards include maps of community health services that offer testing. Although the service was originally designed for the San Francisco area, it has attracted attention nationally and overseas.
Deb Levine, executive director of Internet Sexuality Information Service, which launched InSPOT last fall, said California expects to take the service statewide before Labor Day. Indiana recently signed on to take the program there, and Philadelphia's Mazzoni Center and city Health Department have agreed to conduct focus groups to discuss adopting the service and expanding it to include heterosexuals.
Levine said an international nongovernmental agency has agreed to replicate the service in Romania, and Florida, Maryland, New York state, and British Columbia officials have expressed interest. Personalizing the cards and the Web site for specific communities is the biggest obstacle to taking the service to other cities and countries. It costs about $20,000 for groups to adapt the service for their communities, according to Levine, and an additional maintenance fee is needed to run the site. InSPOT is funded by a grant from the San Francisco Department of Public Health.
Although there is a lack of comprehensive national data on the transmission of STDs through contacts people make online, clinic workers in major cities estimate that as many as 30 percent of gay men who recently contracted STDs were exposed through partners they met via the Internet.