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Los Angeles health officials on Wednesday unveiled a new online service, called Internet Notification Service for Partners or Tricks, or "inSPOTLA," which allows people who have been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease to send anonymous e-cards to their sex partners to urge them to get screened for infection, the Los Angeles Times reports. A similar site was launched in San Francisco in October 2004; Seattle, Philadelphia, and Indiana are expected to launch similar sites next year.
The Los Angeles site was developed by Internet Sexuality Information Services and sponsored by the Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation and the Los Angeles County health department, which has allocated $14,000 to the project.
Advocates--including Los Angeles public health director Jonathan Fielding--say the online service is an easy way for those testing positive for STDs, including HIV, to alert their sex partners that they should be screened for infection, particularly if they have multiple partners. Also, because many gay and bisexual men rely heavily on the Internet to meet sex partners, they often have only e-mail addresses or screen names to use as ways to contact them.
But opponents say sending an online card to someone regarding something as serious as HIV and STD infections is callous. West Hollywood, Calif., city councilman Jeffrey Prang told the Times, "There's something about an anonymous e-mail that is a chicken way to do it."
The sites allow users to choose one of six e-cards, which can be sent anonymously or include the sender's e-mail address. Personal messages also can be added, and a pull-down menu allows users to choose to alert the e-card recipients that they may have been exposed to one of the following STDs: chlamydia, crabs or scabies, gonorrhea, hepatitis A, molluscum contagiosum, non-gonococcal urethritis, shigella, or syphilis. The Los Angeles site also includes HIV on its pull-down menu.