Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Penn State students may use Internet to prevent STD spread

Individuals infected with a sexually transmitted disease can
contact potentially affected partners via the Internet through a
new health department service that Pennsylvania State University
students could soon access.

<p>The Pennsylvania Department of Health is currently
advocating an online notification system for individuals who have
recently had sexual encounters with an STD carrier.

<p>The effort is specifically targeted at Internet users
who have arranged anonymous meetings to engage in sexual acts
because online chatters commonly use alias names in chat rooms.


<p>Richard McGarvey, spokesman of the Pennsylvania
Department of Health, said the Internet has created new challenges
in stopping the spread of STDs.

<p>”Instead of people meeting at a local bar as in the
past, nowadays they are making arrangements right online,” McGarvey
said. “Therefore, they don’t necessarily know their correct address
or contact information to get in touch with them in the future if a
problem arises.”

<p>Once an infected individual involved in the encounter
is aware of an STD, it is difficult to contact past partners due to
alias information. The Internet STD reporting system would also
help track the sexual activities of infected individuals’

<p>The Pennsylvania Department of Health has been working
on the partner-notification system over the past year. It adopted
the system from San Francisco-area health departments that have
been using the web-notification method for the past couple years.
At this point in time, Penn State has not adapted the
partner-notification system into its protocol.

<p>”So far, we have received positive feedback from the
system,” McGarvey said. “But there are risks regarding online
notification, so we need to be very sensitive about the way we go
about sending out information.”

<p>McGarvey said the possibility of someone other than the
user opening e-mails is a main concern for the confidentiality of
the at-risk individual.

<p>Dr. Scott Spear, director of clinical services at
University of Wisconsin’s University Health Services, said that UHS
currently does not officially implement the partner-notification
system. They do strongly urge infected patients to contact their
sexual partners from the last three months immediately.

<p>UHS provides information regarding STDs to patients in
hopes that they will pass on the information to partners.

<p>Although Spear does support the idea of stopping the
spread of STDs by publicizing STD dangers, he does acknowledge the
possibilities of problems concerning confidentiality matters over
the Web.

<p>”No system is perfectly secure, so very personal
information could be disclosed to the wrong person,” Spear said.
“Another issue is that people are not expecting to receive an
e-mail that says that they might be potentially infected. This
could scare a lot of people away.”

<p>According to Spear, there are no official records of
STD statistics of students on UW’s campus. UHS reports STD cases to
the city health department.

<p>Official statistics are unavailable because UHS does
not treat all students to make a correct generalization. In
addition, the city heath department does not distinguish between
cases of UW students and non-students.

<p>UW sophomore Elizabeth Deisinger believes an
STD-notification e-mail would most likely be deleted as junk mail
due to its unexpected content.

<p>”With the masses of chain letters and false
advertisements sent to inboxes on a daily basis, an e-mail saying
that you might have an STD would probably be received as an
unpleasant joke,” Deisinger said.

<p>”The whole idea behind this system seems to be that
people can’t keep track of their partners or will not accept the
responsibility of approaching them themselves,” she said.


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