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U.S. News

After Hookups, E-Cards That Warn, "Get Checked"

February 3, 2009

This year, inSPOT, the online STD partner notification system, plans to develop a national Web site. The program currently operates in 11 cities, including New York City, and 10 states.

The system was developed in 2004 by the Oakland-based nonprofit Internet Sexuality Information Services, with support from the San Francisco Department of Public Health. It was initially aimed at gay men but expanded to include heterosexuals in 2006. Deb Levine, ISIS's executive director, said the idea for inSPOT was borne from two trends: an increase in men using the Internet for sexual hookups, and the rise in syphilis among that group.

Now public health officials are exploring ways to harness the Internet to conduct safe-sex education and STD prevention programming. The anonymous e-cards sent out by inSPOT are part of that strategy.

"Notifying the person exposed to a sexually transmitted infection is the critical piece in preventing further spread. And as the reach of the Internet expands for use in finding instant sex partners, we're using that technology as part of the solution," said Dr. Susan Blank, New York City's assistant health commissioner for STDs.

However, evaluating inSPOT is a challenge, since ISIS cannot determine whether e-card recipients seek testing. And Mary McFarland, an STD specialist at CDC, wonders whether some people who send out anonymous cards are playing pranks.

Dr. Kees Rietmeijer, director of STD control at Denver's Department of Public Health, said inSPOT provides health officials with an alternative to in-person partner notification, which is time-consuming and expensive. "Having said that, as far as effectiveness, the jury is still out," he noted. "If you have X number of hits on the Web site, we don't really know if that translates to people coming to the clinic to be tested and treated."

Back to other news for February 2009

Adapted from:
New York Times
01.20.2009; David Tuller

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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