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MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2004 Feb 20;53(6):129-31.

Using the Internet for partner notification of sexually transmitted diseases--Los Angeles County, California, 2003.


An estimated one third of Internet visits by persons aged > or =18 years are to sexually oriented websites, chat rooms, and news groups that enable users to view sexual images or participate in online discussions of a sexual nature. Although so-called "virtual sex" carries no risk for transmission of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), use of the Internet to find partners for actual sexual activity does carry such risk. During 2001-2003, of 759 men who have sex with men (MSM) and who had early syphilis, 172 (23%) reported using the Internet to meet sex partners (Los Angeles County Department of Health Services [LACDHS], unpublished data, 2003). Because the Internet enables sex partners to maintain anonymity by withholding identifying information (e.g., full name, address, and place of employment), it poses challenges for public health authorities. Use of the Internet by public health authorities to notify sex partners of persons with STDs has been reported previously. This report describes two cases in Los Angeles County (LAC), California, in which public health officials used the Internet to notify partners who were otherwise anonymous. Local public health authorities might develop similar strategies to use the Internet to reduce transmission of STDs.

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