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Curbing the Internet's Influence of STD Problem

( - April 25, 2004) The National Coalition of STD Directors (NCSD) encourages the public health community to work with Internet providers to curb the Internet's facilitation of high risk behavior leading to the spread of sexually transmitted diseases among men who have sex with men (MSM).

New data indicates that the Internet is exacerbating the spread of STDs such as syphilis among MSM. Data also indicates, however, that the Internet is a highly effective tool for partner notification. Studies in Minnesota and Chicago demonstrate how public health professionals can adapt current STD/HIV prevention and control strategies to the Internet.

NCSD has identified strategies that STD programs and Internet providers can use to curb the Internet's role in STD transmission. These include:

> Support the development, implementation, and evaluation of Internet interventions and identify successful collaboration with Internet business providers;

> Gather information on Internet venues used for meeting partners in order to better focus STD outreach and testing;

> Partner notification and self-disclosure via the Internet and e-mail, including encouraging internet sites to prompt for disclosure of risk behavior and HIV status as members fill out their online profiles;

> Establishing online chat-rooms where online health counselors can discuss STD prevention and control with at-risk populations; and

> Post banner ads and links to health promotion information, including locally-based clinical STD services, on MSM-frequented websites.

NCSD encourages public health professionals and their partners to view Internet Service Providers as potential collaborators in the fight against STDs. Providers can promote educational information on their sites that leads to better sexual health decision-making that will lead to a reduction in STD rates.

NCSD represents the directors of public health sexually transmitted disease prevention programs in states, large cities/counties, and territories of the United States, and advocates for effective policies, strategies, and sufficient resources to fight the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.

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