Gay men can now send an anonymous text message or email to inform their sexual partners they may have been infected with a sexually transmissible infection (STI).

The new service, set up by the STI in Gay Men Action Group (STIGMA), is for men who are unsure of how to tell recent sex partners they have an STI. It will not be used for HIV.

Letting partners know they may have been infected is important in the battle to lower STI rates in Sydney’s gay community, with health professionals describing the rise in gonorrhoea, chlamydia and syphilis as an epidemic.

The free alerts can be sent from the STIGMA website.

The text message reads, Someone wants 2 encourage u 2 get a test 4 STIs -“ u may have been exposed.

Email can be used to send a selection of anonymous ecards. One says, You weren’t all I picked up last time. Get checked for an STI. Another reads, Hmm, how do I put this -¦ I’ve just found out I have an STI. Perhaps you could have one too. You should get a test.

The SMS alerts were the idea of STIGMA chair Dr Chris Bourne. As far as he knows they are the first organisation in the world to use the concept.

I thought it was a good idea because every gay man has a mobile phone, he said.

The ecard concept had already been used in America to inform partners of possible syphilis infection, he said.

The free message service forms part of the new STIGMA campaign running during Mardi Gras to lower STI rates. It includes encouraging men to get an STI check following the party season.

ACON launched the new STIGMA campaign to encourage gay men to -˜Make STI Testing Part of Your Party Plan’ at Fair Day over the weekend to prompt gay men to make testing part of their regular activities, ACON president Adrian Lovney said.

STIGMA is encouraging all gay men to get tested, even if they aren’t showing any symptoms. Men who have more than one sexual partner should get tested every three months.

The campaign has been released against a backdrop of epidemics in gonorrhoea, chlamydia and syphilis so the timing for regular STI testing has never been more important for our community, Lovney said.

The whytest.org website also has a new free reminder service to let people know when they are due for another check-up. After signing up, the reminder will be sent by either text message or email.

It’s easy to forget when your last check-up was and it’s common for people to think they had a test recently when it was actually over a year ago. The new reminder system on the website will help overcome this, Bourne said.

Regular testing and prompt alerting of partners to be tested and treated if you have an STI are key aspects of getting STIs under control in the community.

For more information go to the STIGMA website or contact the Sydney Sexual Health Centre on 1800 451 624.

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