STDs: Researchers Look for Prevention Clues Online
Armed with a $70,000 CDC grant, researchers at the Denver Health Department are seeking insight in STD prevention by looking into how Internet users find sex partners online and whether that behavior is associated with increased STD risk, the Denver Post reports. Sheana Saylers Bull and colleagues first observed sexually charged chat rooms and then separately asked individuals seeking STD and HIV counseling at Denver Health Department clinics about their Internet use. The results of those 800 interviews are being considered for publication in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Bull also has created a Web site where she asks personal questions about online and face-to-face sexual behaviors, such as number of lifetime sex partners, STDs and whether respondents use condoms during encounters stemming from the Internet. Mary McFarlane, CDC coordinator of the study, noted that public health "is making progress around places where you'd expect to meet people for risky sex -- bars, bathhouses, etc. But it occurred to us there might be something going on here among a population that we're not as likely to see in public health clinics." Several months ago, seven cases of syphilis reported in San Francisco were traced to Internet-based encounters, and public health officials believe a current syphilis outbreak in Los Angeles may have Internet roots. The role of public health officials in curtailing disease transmission facilitated by the Internet will be tricky, Bull said, noting, "We have to look at ways to use the Internet for partner notification. But it's hard. ... We can't just send emails because a lot of people don't open emails from people they don't know" (Auge, 6/6).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.