Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Shame shame - STD defamation website makes it personal

When a person gets diagnosed with an STD, its courtesy to contact current and former partners and let them know. This way they can take care of themselves too and everyone is happier. If it sounds scary there are systems in place to help you, like the STD division of your local public health department or inSPOT.org. These systems have been built with yours and your partners' privacy in mind.

So...I wasn't too happy this morning when I saw this article thud into my inbox. Put out by Citizen-Times.com, the article titled "Web site lists people with STDs -- Whether they have them or not," made me super grumpy. The site professes to be an international list of people with STDs. And anyone can post an addition to the site, regardless of truth. And yes, there is a list of names, complete with city, state, age and gender.

But, slow down a second. What if it is true? Isn't that person owed the same courtesy they just showed their partner by telling them in confidence? Don't we want to be reinforcing the habit of privately sharing this information with those who need to know because their health depends on it? Can't the response simply be, "Thank you for telling me. I'll get tested."

So what can we do here? Public humiliation is obviously going to dig us deeper in the wrong direction.

1. If you are sexually active make testing regularly part of your routine. Go with a friend if that helps. Get online and tap into the HIVtest.org database that includes both STD and HIV testing resources nationally. In San Francisco, STDtest.org provides a private, cheap way to test, with results securely accessed online by a unique identifier.

2. Share your results with your partner(s) and inquire about theirs. Build trust and sleep easier. Need help figuring out what to say? That's normal. Here's a guide.

3. Learn about the STDs and how they are transmitted, treated and prevented. Inspot.org has easily digestible information as does SF City Clinic.

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