Got an STD? Send an inSPOT E-Card To Notify Partners
inSPOT.org was developed in 2004 by the Internet Sexuality Information Services (ISIS) for the San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH) in order to address the growing problem of STD notification between gay male sexual partners. Since then, over 50,000 e-cards have been sent among both homosexual and heterosexual partners.
Traditionally, partner notification has been done in person, by phone, or by mail, with the assistance of a public health investigator. The high number of cases of gonorrhea and chlamydia, however, makes partner notification for all named partners impractical in many jurisdictions . Particularly among gay men and other men who have sex with men (G/MSM), who tend to have higher numbers of partners, online notification may be an effective strategy to increase partner notification . Recent survey data suggest that with the ease and privacy of online communication, more patients would be willing to receive notification of possible exposure to disease via e-mail or other new technologies .
inSPOT provides 6 e-card templates for individuals to choose from, after which they can choose which sexually transmitted infection (STI) have, add a personal message, and opt to include their email address. The e-mail service does have the option for complete anonymity, as the site doesn't collect or compile any personal information.
Sample e-card phrases include "I got screwed while screwing, you might have too," "It's not waht you brought to the party, it's what you left with," and "You're too hot to be out of action," all followed with the advice that the receipient get checked out.
The impact of this e-service was assessed and discused in a peer-reviewed journal, Public Library of Science (PLoS.) The writers found that while the service is effective in notifying people of possible STD infection, it is impossible to determine the follow-up rates of those receiving the emails and whether or not the e-card prompted them to visit a medical professional for an examination.
So far ten cities (including two in Canada) have adopted inSPOT. Idaho has the lowest usage with just 45 cards sent in 2007, while LA was the highest (again) with 2,782 cards sent in that year. Behind the "other" category which includes cervicitis, crabs, scabies, hepatitis A, B and C, and more (all accounting for about 50% of e-cards), gonorrhea and syphilis were tied for the most commonly e-carded diseases at 15%.
I just wonder what's coming next - sexual health updates via Twitter and Facebook updates? "E-venge" sites are already on the rise as well with blogs like Ex-Girlfriend's Revenge, which not only posted photos of devious men but invited other women to submit their STD horror stories, and of course the famous STD Allstars which had to be shut down when the male in question complained.
The next step for the inSPOT program is to implement it in all US states, and further throughout Canada. It has has already been introduced to other countries after having been translated into Romanian and French, and will soon be available in Spanish as well.