The BC Centre for Disease Control is partnering with the US company inSPOT to give British Columbians the option of notifying sexual partners about potential STI transmission via e-card. A similar service already operates in Toronto and Ottawa.
Dr. Mark Gilbert, a physician epidemiologist at the Centre for Disease Control, said the service is meant to reduce the number of STIs in British Columbia by encouraging people to seek treatment if they have contracted an infection from someone. It’s another tool that people can use to notify their partners, providing they know their email addresses. If they don’t have that information, newly diagnosed people can always contact their sexual partners directly or they can enlist the help of public health nurses and family doctors in the notification process.
When I first read the story I didn’t have a positive reaction. First I imagined receiving a card like this from an ex, not even knowing who, since it can be sent anonymously. I imagined I’d be pretty appalled and frightened to know that someone knew I might have received an STI from them but that I’d have no reciprocal knowledge of who’d infected me. Not to mention I’d be pretty upset that whoever it was hadn’t had the courtesy to tell me in person.
All that fear doesn’t make a lot of sense. According to the Sun article, use of the e-cards in San Francisco was seen as a convenient and non-threatening way to encourage notification and testing of recipients, especially with a possible rise in hookup culture due to increased popularity of internet dating and “casual encounters”. Though it might seem odd at first, I’m thinking inSPOT and the BCCDC think the humourous options on a couple of the cards might even help deal with some of the stigma around having STIs. It’s certainly worth a shot.
As scary as it might be to think about getting a card, it’s scarier to think that you might go on not knowing at all. The BCCDC stresses the e-cards shouldn’t be considered an out for those who don’t want to inform sexual partners in person. And the inSPOT site gives tips for talking to a partner about potential transmission. This is kind of a fail-safe in case someone ends up in a hookup with someone they can’t contact again in person but whose email they know, or someone who really wouldn’t tell at all if they had to do it face-to-face.
Overall, if people are really worried about getting a dreaded STI e-card, there’s an easy way around it: be assertive and talk openly with your partner(s), practice safe sex and get regularly tested for STIs.