The Internet: Obstacles and Solutions to STD Prevention in New Mexico

Tuesday, March 11, 2008: 3:45 PM
International Ballroom South
Arthur Salazar , STD Prevention Program, New Mexico Department of Health, Albuquerque, NM

In many areas of the country, the Internet has been used as a social network for individuals intending to meet multiple, anonymous sex partners, posing new challenges to STD partner notification prevention efforts. Prior to 2006, the use of Internet sex sites to meet partners had not been identified as a significant problem in New Mexico.

Identify obstacles and solutions involved with using the Internet as an effective STD partner notification prevention tool in New Mexico.

During interviews of STD patients conducted by Disease Prevention Specialists (DPS), screen names of partners and internet sites where they met were identified so that they could be contacted.

There are many obstacles to overcome when using the Internet for STD/HIV prevention services including: ensuring that DPS received continuous access to previously restricted web sites, developing a protocol to ensure professional use of the Internet, documenting all Internet prevention efforts on an Internet Website log-sheet, paying a membership fee required by most sex sites, the fact that screen names/profiles pictures and information can be changed/deleted and are impossible to trace once they have been changed and the fact that once a notification letter has been sent, the recipient can delete the notification letter without any follow-up contact with DPS. Despite these obstacles, we have been very successful in addressing these problems and in contacting and providing STD prevention services to many partners.

The Internet is becoming an important tool in STD/HIV prevention efforts. There are many obstacles to overcome, but with proper planning, the Internet can be an effective component of STD/HIV prevention efforts that can quickly and easily spread prevention efforts to every corner of a rural community.

Rural states/communities need to start planning and implementing Internet intervention and prevention protocols for their communities.