Would you send an STD e-card?
May 31st, 2011
07:33 AM ET

Would you send an STD e-card?

E-cards are last-minute lifesavers when you’ve forgotten to send a happy birthday card.  But they’re not the first thing you think of when you learn you have a sexually transmitted disease.

But since 2004, a free Web site, inSpot.org has allowed users to anonymously notify their partners to get tested for STDs such as HIV, gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis.  The online program allows users to send an e-card anonymously, specifying the STD.

The tool exists, but do people use the STD e-cards?

Well, that depends.

A study published this month in the journal, Sexually Transmitted Diseases reports that most people don’t think of sending an e-card when they test positive for a STD.  That really shouldn't come as a surprise.

“It appears to be that 90% of people said we’d really rather tell people in person,” said Mary McFarlane, one of the authors of the study.  “It’s not very appropriate - They felt it was taking themselves too far out of the equation, taking that personal contact too far out of it in these cases.  Most people were not convinced to use electronic communication of any kind.”

The e-cards from inSPOT.org deliver the news about possible sexual infection in many tones.  Some are flippant: "You're too hot to be out of action. I got diagnosed with an STD since we played. You might want to get checked too."  Others are much more serious.

The study took place at the Denver Metro Health Clinic, the largest clinic for STIs in the Rocky Mountain region.  Patients who were diagnosed received contact cards to encourage their sexual partners to come to the clinic for evaluation and were also given a card about inSPOT.org that explained how to use the website.

Partner notification is crucial to stop the spread of infection to various sexual partners. That process has traditionally been handled by the health department, but their ability to do so has been waning with reduced funding.

Between August and November 2008, more than 500 cards about inSPOT were distributed to almost all of the gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis, and HIV diagnoses at the Denver clinic.  They also advertised the e-card website on posters, flyers and the Denver clinic’s website.  They also ran ads on a gay dating site called ManHunt, a local Denver newspaper and a radio public service announcement.

Their findings: The use of the e-cards was low.  In surveys, recognition of inSPOT was low (6%).

Also, their survey showed that 89% preferred to inform their partners in person – and only 4.8% said they would use e-mail.

Study authors concluded that the program “did not yield evidence for its effectiveness.”

“I don’t think it has proven to be scaled up to other areas as easily as we might think,” said McFarlane, prevention partnerships coordinator for the Centers for Disease Control’s Division of STD Prevention.

Innovation and new technology is important in this field, she said.

“It is important when you find these new technologies, before huge amount of public health dollars are spent, you need to make sure it scales across different populations.  This particular one didn’t scale across the population. It’s important to know why not, so we can do better on the next innovation."

Deb Levine, executive director of ISIS Inc. which created inSPOT, said the Colorado study is flawed.

The e-cards were meant to be peer-to-peer tool rather than a health department tool.  Plus, the social marketing of the cards were aimed to the gay community.  When that marketing was given to regular attendees of the Denver clinic, who were vastly heterosexual, the marketing failed to reach the targeted community, Levine said.

The e-cards were created in the Bay Area, in response to a rise of syphilis in the gay community.  Most of their users were gay men. They found that far more e-cards were sent for syphilis, than chlamydia.  And syphilis affects more gay men and chlamydia affects more African American women.

“We think the study was flawed,” said Levine.  “We still feel the e-cards have not been evaluated properly.”

soundoff (60 Responses)
  1. Adam


    May 31, 2011 at 08:52 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Eve


      May 31, 2011 at 12:18 | Report abuse |
    • Ricardo


      May 31, 2011 at 12:27 | Report abuse |
    • Phil in Oregon

      The cards are great. I would be tempted to kill someone for exposing me to HIV, since that's what they did. It still might not save them, but it would get them more time to move to Guatemala and never come back...

      June 1, 2011 at 09:43 | Report abuse |
    • Alice

      With his effective powerful prayers i was able to have my lover back just in 24 hours

      He has solution to all relationship/marriage problem and health issues such as herpes…..

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      Thank you! ☺️

      December 16, 2020 at 10:12 | Report abuse |
  2. tonlok

    Sounds like a good prank to play on someone...

    May 31, 2011 at 09:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Jon


    May 31, 2011 at 09:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Fuyuko

    I like the 'too hot to be outta the action' line. I guess, I'd rather hear it this way than not at all. So I say it is better than nothing.

    May 31, 2011 at 10:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. ProudGeek

    How about:

    "Hello Andy, remember me, Lucy?
    In my bed, we did passionately lie
    I might have given you HIV
    So get checked, before you die"


    May 31, 2011 at 10:39 | Report abuse | Reply
    • tcp

      Did you really just LOL at your own post? FOUL!

      May 31, 2011 at 11:29 | Report abuse |
  6. Jennifer

    Well, it's got to be better than getting the health department to do it. I would be pretty annoyed if an ex gave my real name to a health professional in relation to something like that – to do so is to take away your former partner's right to anonymous medical treatment. You tell them yourself, anonymously is fine, but you don't go giving their name around to other people, especially doctors who have a pathological obsession with recording things.

    May 31, 2011 at 10:53 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Chelsea

      You would be annoyed if someone cared enough about you to give your name to someone who can help you get tested and treated without going through your insurance?

      May 31, 2011 at 11:13 | Report abuse |
    • shev

      Depending on where you live, communicable disease are reported to health department (usually local or state) and it is required by law that health care providers report. No such thing as anonymous testing nowadays.

      May 31, 2011 at 13:19 | Report abuse |
  7. josh

    Looks like the ex gets another retaliation for being a beotch

    May 31, 2011 at 11:15 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Russian

      Dear ex,

      You have AIDS.

      Best regards,

      May 31, 2011 at 23:20 | Report abuse |
  8. Mdma

    If I got one, I think I would laugh on my way to the clinic.
    Well I mean I'd have to get laid first...

    May 31, 2011 at 11:29 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Russian

      In soviet russia, girls lay you!

      May 31, 2011 at 23:20 | Report abuse |
  9. mattmchugh

    Off-topic, but where did they get the stock photo for this article? That's a Palm VII ... one of the first wireless internet devices that went off the market, maybe, 2001? If you're getting your "You've got an STD!" e-mail on one of those, it may also recommend a mode of treatment involving leeches.

    May 31, 2011 at 11:33 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Denizen Kate

      🙂 – I recognized it, too. I still have mine, hoping it will be a valuable museum piece soon.

      May 31, 2011 at 11:52 | Report abuse |
    • slowpokes

      As the article says, the site's been up since 2004.

      May 31, 2011 at 23:57 | Report abuse |
  10. rob

    Roses are red, violets are blue. I got the clap, now so do you...

    May 31, 2011 at 11:53 | Report abuse | Reply
    • just me

      this poem i cant stop LOL!

      May 31, 2011 at 16:57 | Report abuse |
  11. the_dude

    Ummm...terribly sorry...you have aids

    May 31, 2011 at 11:57 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Russian

      h ttp:/ /w w w .y out u b e. co m/ w at c h ?v =2 N3dI -j6 e nA
      (remove spaces)

      May 31, 2011 at 23:31 | Report abuse |
  12. the_dude

    At least we have matching herpes

    May 31, 2011 at 11:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Ashley

    OMG must send one of these to my husband, BEST PRANK EVARR.

    May 31, 2011 at 12:11 | Report abuse | Reply
    • rob

      The STD or the Ecard??

      May 31, 2011 at 12:13 | Report abuse |
    • Ashley

      Lol, definitely the Ecard.

      May 31, 2011 at 12:14 | Report abuse |
    • rob

      Ok..Yes, THAT would be funny!

      May 31, 2011 at 12:19 | Report abuse |
    • Ha

      lol @ rob

      May 31, 2011 at 12:19 | Report abuse |
    • Keinich

      LMBO @ Rob. Too funny.

      May 31, 2011 at 20:21 | Report abuse |
  14. svann

    For that personal touch – send Hallmark.

    May 31, 2011 at 12:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. James

    I guess I would prefer to at least call but from personal experience it is nice to at least be informed somehow besides symptoms that may or not appear before you have given it to someone else.

    May 31, 2011 at 12:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. WC

    Reach out and touch someone...

    May 31, 2011 at 12:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. John

    I'm going to send one to all the guys at work! From the boss!!!!

    May 31, 2011 at 12:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. vladmir smirnof

    in soviet russia e-card gives you std!

    May 31, 2011 at 13:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. lauren


    May 31, 2011 at 14:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. LaraH

    Maybe I'm wrong – but I would have figured that most (not all) instances of contracting a STD are though casual hook ups or flings, not though committed relationships. So my thought here is... who gets the email address of a causal fling or hook up?

    May 31, 2011 at 15:03 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Who gets the email address of a casual fling or hook up?

      People who meet online, of course. But you're wrong to assume that "most... instances of contracting a STD are though casual hook ups or flings." I would guess that many, many instances of contracting STDs are from people who think they're somehow "safe" because they don't sleep around with just anyone, or people who trust their partners not to cheat, or people who don't bother getting tested regularly (or ever). And so on. But it's true that the people who would use e-cards rather than an "in person" disclosure of STDs is probably disclosing the fact to several casual, not serious, ex-partners.

      May 31, 2011 at 16:30 | Report abuse |
  21. Brian

    This is hilarious

    May 31, 2011 at 15:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Stefan

    Wow, what kind of a tool gives somebody an STD and then sends them an ECard like "OOps, my bad! Sorry about the syphillis, but hey, at least it's not HIV!!". That's worse than dumping somebody on faceplace or mybook or whatever!

    May 31, 2011 at 16:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. just me

    @rob... love the poem! LMAO

    May 31, 2011 at 16:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. balto paul

    I predict a massive wave of STD ecard pranking.

    May 31, 2011 at 17:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Burbank

    This could too easily be abused, bad idea. Someone could send one to someone they wanted to hurt or get even with just to put them through a big scare and spending money on a doctor when the sender never even had an STD to begin with.

    May 31, 2011 at 17:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Ian

    If someone is too embarrassed to tell someone over the phone or in person, at *least* they can do this. Better than nothing.

    May 31, 2011 at 17:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Laura

    The issue is that those who say they will only inform others personally are not the ones we need to worry about. We need to worry about the ones who won't bother telling former partners. The e-card is meant for those in that group.

    May 31, 2011 at 17:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Blaqb0x

    Now I know what April Fool's prank I'm playing next year!

    May 31, 2011 at 18:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Blaqb0x

    Let's just hope the website is smart enough not to have implemented a Gmail, yahoo, hotmail email contact import feature.

    May 31, 2011 at 18:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Burniing Sensation

    I'll never forget the intimate moments we shared together –
    Those precious few moments we wished would last forever?

    I may have left you something to remember me by:
    Be sure to look for genital warts.

    May 31, 2011 at 19:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Burniing Sensation

    I'll never forget the intimate moments we shared together –
    Those precious few minutes we wished would last forever.

    I may have left you something to remember me by:

    Be sure to look for genital warts.

    May 31, 2011 at 19:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Russian

    Dear friend,

    I may have given you an STD.

    Best regards, Russian

    May 31, 2011 at 23:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Phil in Oregon

    Much better than in person. Think of it this way:
    Partner 1 "You probably have HIV because of our date"
    Partner 2 kills Partner 1.

    June 1, 2011 at 09:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Cam Knowles

    Wow really?? This is to funny. An then again a good way to see of you're mate is cheating!! lol im goin to send one to my BF!! lol Even though we just got tested and we boith are – I have doubts that he is cheating and when i send him this I will see lol

    June 1, 2011 at 19:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. dehcated

    In response, I would send the sender an E-card with a Desert Eagle.

    June 2, 2011 at 14:35 | Report abuse | Reply
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