Mouse rant blog vent mouse.

Monday, January 03, 2005

Well, if it increases notification...

I found this article about an anonymous e-card service that notifies the receiver that he's been exposed to an STD interesting. Basically, the people who run it realize that a lot of STDs are getting spread through anonymous Internet hook-ups and felt it was a good way for people to utilize the email addresses they have collected of former casual partners. I'm of two minds about this. On one hand, it's hard to be against anything that increases people's willingness to notify previous partners of an STD. It's no secret that people's shame and fear of an angry reaction makes them hesistate to pick up the phone or even send off an email , and that leads to the disease getting spread by unwitting carriers.

I'm reminded of a plotline on "Sex and the City" that demonstrated this problem. Miranda realizes she has chlamydia and her doctor tells her she has to contact all her previous sex partners to inform them. (I did find that part a little silly--I doubt she had to contact ALL of them, just the ones from the past year or two. But the only weak part in an otherwise good storyline.) The hardest is telling her current boyfriend that he has to get tested, which he does good-naturedly. She gets on the phone and calls all her previous partners and discovers that one of them knew he had it and didn't call her, implying that he likely gave it to her. And had she known, she wouldn't have exposed her current boyfriend. But it came off more twinkly and less preachy than I make it sound here.

And that's part of the problem, according to this article. People don't like the conversation about STDs because it's not fun or cool or whatever. To rectify this, they are making these emails light-hearted.

A couple of the six card options are worded casually but plainly: "Heads up ... I caught an STD since we messed around and you might have too. Please take care of yourself." Others are more irreverent -- "It's not what you brought to the party, it's what you left with" -- and that's also part of the plan. The goal is not only to provide a palette of choices (including serious ones) for different personality types but also to use humor to chip away at the stigma associated with STDs (much the same way condoms were marketed with funny novelty packaging in the 1980s, to help them go from ickily clinical to collect-'em-all cool.)

I have my doubts that STD notification will ever be a light-hearted and playful thing like condom usage has become. Prevention is a hell of a lot different than testing and treating a disease, for one thing. For men, testing is really awful, because it's an invasive procedure that many of them haven't even stopped to consider before. For women, it's simply a lot easier to say, "Hey, while you're down there, could you do a chlamydia test?"

But I can buy that it's possible to get people to be more routine and less freaked about diseases that you can treat with a round of penicillin. Or even diseases that are manageable but not life-threatening like herpes. I doubt there will ever be a casual, "heads up" way to tell someone you exposed him/her to HIV. I guess I don't have too much of a problem with the airy tone these cards take if it helps get important information to those who need it, though.

59 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree that anything that makes it easier to notify people of possible STD exposure is a great thing.

This is in response to last part you wrote about it being easier for women because we could be tested at the annual exams. When I was in college I went to Planned Parenthood for birth control pills. They ALWAYS test for STDs. (urine test)

Now that I'm gainfully employed and insured, I don't think STDs ever come up at an OB/GYN's office. When you're pregnant, they run blood work which includes an HIV test, but that's it. I have never had an STD conversation at a doctor's office.

I hate annual exams. I'm no longer taking oral contraceptives, so the only reason to go is the PAP smear. I've read articles which say that the PAP smear is controversial as to whether it really can predict cancer. (nevermind the issues about acuracy of the labs that screen the tests) It is more interesting to me now that cervical cancer has been linked to a virus (HPV). Frankly, that's just not a compelling enough reason to have annual exams done. I'm in a monogamous relationship (as far as I know...) so I don't feel all that much at risk.

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