SAN FRANCISCO Sexual disease alert via the Net New Health Dept. program for gays
These e-cards appear funny, sexy and hip, but if you're lucky, you won't be seeing one in your inbox anytime soon. They're the newest way for gay men diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease to tell their sex partners about their condition.
The program is called InSPOT -- an acronym for Internet Notification Service for Partners or Tricks -- and it premieres today, paid for by the San Francisco Department of Public Health STD Services and run by a local group called Internet Sexuality Information Services (ISIS).
Dr. Jeffrey Klausner, who directs the city's STD Prevention Section, says the service is the first of its kind. Though it's not new for health officials to e-mail people exposed to a sexual disease using a list provided by the patient, InSPOT allows the person carrying the infection to make the notification.
STDs are an unfortunate consequence of sexual behavior the same way other infections may be a result of hiking, kayaking or contact sports," Klausner said. "If someone gets an STD, he should not be stigmatized."
Tom Kennedy, a gay man himself, was on the community advisory board that helped design the cards. "It took a lot of time to come up with language that didn't seem accusatory," said Kennedy, who now is program director of ISIS.
The group devised six pithy slogans, including: "It's not what you brought to the party, it's what you left with," "You're too hot to be out of action" and "I got screwed while screwing; you might have, too."
Deb Levine, executive director of ISIS, said: "The bottom line was they wanted fun. They wanted something that also speaks to the gay culture and gay lifestyle -- something you would find in a store in the Castro, not in a Hallmark store in the mall.
"We wanted to lighten up the issue a bit," she said. "It doesn't have to be all serious, fear-based and shameful."
Kennedy agrees. "How awkward are those phone calls, 'Hey remember me?' I hope this service will be less threatening." The cards can be sent to as many as six e-mail addresses at a time and may be signed or anonymous.