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Los Angeles Times Examines Internet-Based STI Prevention Efforts in Los Angeles, San Francisco

April 5, 2006

The Los Angeles Times on Tuesday examined Internet-based prevention efforts for sexually transmitted infections -- including HIV transmission -- by health authorities in Los Angeles and San Francisco. According to the Times, local health authorities are using Web sites to disseminate prevention messages, arrange testing for STIs, encourage people to use online postcards to notify their partners that they may have been exposed to an STI and involve counselors in online sex chat rooms. Some Web sites allow people who know their HIV status to search for partners of the same status, a practice known as sero-sorting.

Online Prevention Efforts for MSM
Many Web sites aimed at helping to prevent the transmission of STIs are focused on men who have sex with men, the Times reports (Costello, Los Angeles Times, 4/4). A CDC study released in 2005 shows that a nationwide increase in syphilis was being driven in part by an increase of new cases among MSM. In 2004, about 64% of syphilis cases occurred among MSM, compared with about 5% in 1999 (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 11/9/05). Research has found that people who meet in online forums are more likely to have an STI and engage in high risk behaviors than those who meet offline, the Times reports. To address this, the dating Web site, which is popular among MSM, recently began offering advertising space at no cost to public health agencies, as well as allowing counselors to provide information on safer sex and answer questions, the Times reports. The "traditional outreach of going out into the field isn't working," Jeff Bailey, director of education at the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center, said. "We're starting to find that we can use the Internet to help reach people in ways we couldn't otherwise," Ronald Valdiserri, of CDC's Center for HIV, STD and TB Prevention, said (Los Angeles Times, 4/4).

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