The Austin Chronicle

About AIDS

You've got mail ... and gonorrhea!

By Sandy Bartlett, July 22, 2005, Columns

Like checking your personal e-mail? "Virus notification" could acquire a new meaning if a proposed new program catches on – and we don't mean Microsoft.

Last fall San Francisco began a novel experiment: an Internet program that lets gay/bi men who have a sexually transmitted disease send e-cards to inform their sex partners, rather than have a health department disease intervention specialist visit them.

Despite being a new – and yet unproven – format, the Internet Notification Service for Partners or Tricks, or inSPOT, fits the government-mandated requirement that prevention approaches be culturally appropriate: it uses humor; it can notify multiple e-dresses; and cards may be sent anonymously, if preferred.

So far, inSPOT does not include HIV in its menu of STDs because of specialized surveillance needs, but inclusion is planned if this trial run is successful. The proof will be in whether the notified guys actually come in for STD tests. When a DIS pays a personal visit, he/she can be very persuasive. Will an e-mail be as effective?

Health departments from Philadelphia and Florida to British Columbia and Romania are interested in localizing InSPOT for their areas. San Francisco, and even Indiana, we understand. But Romania?

Perhaps Austin should check this out, too. We pride ourselves on being one of the nation's most wired cities, with a youthful population that lives by, of, and for the cyberworld. Could be just what the doctor ordered in helping get STD-infected people treated.

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