October 23, 2008

E-Cards Notify Partners Of STD Infections

A new report found that electronic cards may become a new method of notifying the partners of patients with sexually transmitted diseases.

This notification is crucial to controlling the spread of STDs. In the past, it has been done over the phone, by mail or in person, with the help of a public health official.

But in large cities it's harder to track who may be at risk of being infected by STDs.

In 2004, a San Francisco-area non-profit called Internet Sexuality Information Services (ISIS) developed an Internet-based program to aid in partner notification. Called inSPOT, the service uses "e-cards" to help STD patients reach their partners.

Visitors to the Web site get to choose from personalized greeting cards that will be sent to their partners' email addresses.

The e-cards alert recipients that they might have been exposed to an STD, and also provide them with links to STD information and a map of clinics where they can be tested.

The program began in San Francisco, where it was targeted toward gay and bisexual men, but has since expanded to more than a dozen U.S. states. Since 2004, more than 30,000 people have sent nearly 50,000 e-cards to their sexual partners.

Percentages of recipients who click on the e-card links varies by city"”ranging from 20 percent in Los Angeles to a high of nearly 50 percent in Idaho, according to a report in the journal PLoS Medicine.

InSPOT represents "one more tool in the toolkit" to cut STD transmission rates, according to study co-author Deb Levine, the executive director of ISIS.

"E-cards do not replace in-person communication," she said, "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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