E-cards May Aid in STD Notification

Partner notification, or when a person is informed that one of his or her sexual partners was infected with sexually-transmitted disease, has been a cornerstone in controlling the spread of STDs like gonorrhea, chlamydia, and even HIV.  Traditionally, it has been done over the phone, by mail, or in person (together with the help of a public health worker). 

However, some cities have difficulty administering this exercise, as many STD-infected patients have had multiple sexual partners, making it difficult to track down all individuals who are at risk.  Nowadays, a non-profit organization aims at offering new ways to alert a sexual partner of patients with STD using electronic postcards.

The Internet Sexuality Information Service of San Francisco developed an Internet-based program called inSPOT to aid in partner education.  InSPOT uses e-cards to help STD patients reach their partners.  Visitors of their website can choose one out of six e-cards and type in recipients’ email addresses. 

They can either send the postcard anonymously or include their own email address.  Not only recipients are informed that they might have been exposed to an STD, it also provide them with links to STD information and a map of clinics where they can be tested.  Since 2004, more than 30,000 people have sent nearly 50,000 e-cards to their sexual partners.

The percentage of recipients who click on the e-card links varies by city, according to report-ranging from 20 percent in Los Angeles to a high of nearly 50 percent in Idaho.  Still unknown is the percentage of e-card recipients who ultimately seek STD training.

The results suggest that inSPOT represents "on more tool in the toolkit" to cut STD transmission rates, said study co-author Deb Levine, the executive director of ISIS. 

"E-cards do not replace in-person communication, but for those people who are diagnosed with an STD, e-cards can enhance sexual communication and help with community responsibility and easing a process of disclosure that can be extremely difficult."

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