In an age when many search for sex on the Internet, Los Angeles County health officials on Wednesday unveiled a controversial tool to fight the spread of HIV and other diseases: a website that helps send anonymous e-mail warning people that they might be infected.
Through the website, inSPOTLA.org, users can send a free, unsigned electronic postcard with a standard message or a personal note, thus avoiding an awkward conversation that many people would rather not have. The idea is to help people be more forthcoming with sexual partners so those at risk of sexually transmitted diseases get tested and practice safer sex.
The website, which anyone can use but is primarily aimed at people who seek casual sex online, is part of a broader national campaign. San Francisco launched a website in October 2004 that covered other infections, such as gonorrhea and chlamydia, which has generated about 20,000 e-mails. Only this month did it include HIV. Seattle, Philadelphia and Indiana are planning to launch inSPOT sites next year.
"It will help more people get tested early," said Dr. Jonathan Fielding, public health director for the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services, which has invested more than $14,000 in the effort so far and plans to spend $8,000 annually on its operation. "We can get people into treatment and get them to modify their behavior."
But some say the e-cards are an insensitive way to inform people of unpleasant or even alarming news. "There's something about an anonymous e-mail that is a chicken way to do it," said Jeffrey Prang, a West Hollywood councilman.
Others worry that the online tool could be ripe for abuse by pranksters. The diagnoses of those who use the site do not have to be confirmed by health officials. However, Deb Levine, executive director of the nonprofit agency that created the sites in Los Angeles County and San Francisco, Internet Sexuality Information Services, said far less than 1% of e-mails have been reported as pranks.
Man that would be a pretty crappy email to get. But I guess if it gets some people to get tested when they otherwise wouldn't have, it's a good thing, right?
Originally posted by ekedolphinI suppose it's better than the ol' lipstick-on-the-mirror urban legend, when you have hot sex with someone and wake up the following morning to the message "WELCOME TO THE WORLD OF AIDS!"
Still... goddammit, if you have AIDS, don't go around having unprotected sex. If it's too much to ask for you to wait until marriage, at least exercise some common fuckin' sense.
(edited by ekedolphin on 18.12.05 0139)
Not everyone that has AIDS knows it and not everyone that has AIDS gets it through unprotected sex.