Online Anonymous Notification of Sex Partners For STDs

An online service called inSPOT allows patients who test positive for STDs to use a website to notify sexual partners, anonymously if they so choose, of the possibility that the partners were infected. A report done by the San Francisco Department of Public Health finds that since 2004, 30,000 people have used the service to send 50,000 notifications of all sorts of diseases contracted through sexual activity.

This project has enormous potential health benefits because embarrassment and a desire to remain anonymous are factors that can prevent people from notifying past sexual partners of their risk of contracting the disease. Of course, as Dr. Richard Rothenberg of Georgia State University notes in the article, it is difficult to track the effects of the project because of confidentiality issues. Nevertheless, the project is valuable:

However, it may be difficult, if not impossible, to study the impact on health because the service is confidential, Rothenberg said. “I think we, and the authors, must be content with the idea that this appears to be an acceptable method to fulfill the moral imperative of notification, and it has a chance to be a better approach than what we currently do,” he said.

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