"About last night" may have a new meaning when you receive an e-mail with that subject line from a paramour or someone you befriended for a night.
A web site based in New York says it has released an e-mail service, similar to an e-greeting, which enables people who may have sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) to send anonymous email warnings to their partners so they can get themselves checked.
The company says the service could help stem the rising ride of new infections, especially in cosmopolitan cities where e-mail is the preferred form of communication.
The website, InSpot.org, uses the e-card model to send messages like "I'm So Sorry" to notify people that they may have been exposed to a disease. It also offers information about getting tested and treatment.
The site was developed by Internet Sexuality Information Services, Inc. I.S.I.S. is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to developing and using Internet technologies to prevent disease transmission and enhance the sexual well-being of individuals and communities.
"Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are more common than you know," says a spokesman for the web site. "In the U.S. alone, there are 15 million new cases each year. Talking to your sex partners, even virtually, helps take away the stigma associated with STDs and it's scientifically proven to reduce transmission."
The site offers some tips to consumers who are sexually active:
• Notify everyone you've had sex with in the past six months. Oral sex counts, too.
• Try looking through your old emails and your online address book to complete the list.
• If you decide to compose a personal message, put yourself in the other person's shoes. Think about how you were told what you liked and what you didn't and put the best of it into words.
• You don't have to provide detailed medical infothis e-mail card will automatically provide links to what they need to know.
• You can send postcards anonymously or from your email address. Historically, when you tell a sex partner(s) yourself, it's more likely s.he will "hear" the message and get tested.
• No information will be collected or shared with any public or private agency.
If you receive an ecard anonymously or from someone you know, it doesn't mean you have an STD. It simply means you may have been exposed to an STD, so go to your doctor or a neighborhood clinic and get checked out, says the web site.
"If you don't have a regular doctor, are uncomfortable talking to your regular doctor or don't have insurance, our neighborhood clinic map can help you find a place nearby where you can get tested, and if needed treatment, for little to no cost." the site adds.
"And if you do test positive for an STD, please come back to inSPOT.org and send ecards to your partners and/or hookups. The best way to keep yourself and our community healthy is to communicate with each other and get regular STD checkups. Many STDs are curable, although do know that if you are treated once, you can still get the STD from an infected person a second, third or fourth time. If you're sexually active with more than one partner, many doctors recommend STD checkups every three months. inSPOT.org is not a substitute for a doctor's visit or professional medical advice," the web site says.
"Making use of some of the emerging technologies makes sense," said Sue Blank, of New York's department of health and mental hygiene.
"We're getting the word out to the community."
Blank hopes the site will help to reduce new syphilis infections in New York which rose by 56 per cent during the first half of the current fiscal year.
Users of the site, which went online in San Francisco in 2004, can choose from a selection of messages.
"It provides an easy, convenient, anonymous way for people to be responsible about notifying their partners about a possible exposure to an STD," said Deb Levine, of the San Francisco Internet Sexuality Information Services, which created InSpot with the city's department of public health.
The rise in syphilis in New York mirrors a national trend that shows syphilis has risen sharply among gay and bisexual men in the United States this decade.
Levine said that in San Francisco, syphilis rates have fallen since the site was introduced. In addition to New York and San Francisco, the web site is now active in six other US cities. It has also been launched in eight US states, as well as two Canadian cities and Romania.
San Diego county's health agency is launching a radio and television ad campaign in an effort to reverse a spike in syphilis infections and other sexually transmitted diseases. The county's annual number of new syphilis cases rose from 23 in 1997 to 312 last year.
Check out the site at inspot.org/gateway.aspx.
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