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STD Prevention Efforts Turn to Web Hook-Ups
  Southern Voice (Atlanta)
Dec 26, 2003
Ryan Lee
On Dec. 19, CDC highlighted the Web-based approaches the San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH) uses to deliver safe-sex messages in response to a four-year syphilis outbreak among gay men. "Because a majority of new syphilis cases are from men who have met online, we had to bring our staff up to speed on how to use the Internet to reach people," said Jeffrey Klausner, director of the STD Prevention & Control division of the health department.
In 2002 in San Francisco, men who have sex with men (MSM) accounted for 88 percent of the 495 reported cases of early syphilis; MSM accounted for 22 percent of the 41 cases reported in 1998. Researchers collected information from 415 MSM with the disease. The men reported a combined total of 6,482 sex partners during the time period in which they might have contracted syphilis. The Internet was the most common way to meet sex partners: almost 33 percent of hook-ups occurred online, followed by bars, bathhouses and sex clubs.
Among syphilis-infected MSM in San Francisco, 37 percent met partners online in the last half of 2002, compared with 12 percent in the first six months of 2000. From January through April 2003, 44 percent met sex partners online.
The SFDPH created guidelines to help health agencies use the Internet to contact potential sex partners. The guidelines ensure that prevention messages protect confidentiality and are not discarded as spam.
Also on Dec. 19, the National Coalition of STD Directors (NCSD) called on Internet service providers to help curb the spread of STDs through online hook-ups. "The Internet has the potential to increase the spread of HIV and STDs, but also has unique characteristics which, if we take advantage of them, can reduce transmission," Theresa Raphael, executive director of NCSD, said in a statement.
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