The Washington State Health Department Will Call Your Exes to Talk to Them About Gonorrhea

Calling all the people you've slept with to tell them they might have gonorrhea is hardly anyone's idea of a good time. For the lucky citizens of eastern Washington, this nightmare may never come true. The Spokane Regional Health District will do the cringe-worthy task of calling up your former sex partners for you if you test positive for an STD.

The notification is totally anonymous and conducted by a Spokane Regional Health District social worker. This effort comes at a time when gonorrhea is proving particularly resistant to drugs. Gonorrhea is an especially sneaky STD, since it can take years for symptoms to manifest themselves.

The notification is totally anonymous and conducted by a Spokane Regional Health District social worker.

One worker, Anna Halloran, explained to NPR what the process involves. First, she tracks down patient's ex-lovers, using phone, email, texting, Facebook, or even approaching them in person.

"So I'll ask, 'Is this Jessica?'" Halloran told NPR. "And then I would ask your birthday, and if that matches what I have, I would say, 'I'm calling from the Spokane Regional Health District. And I'm calling to let you know that you may have been exposed to gonorrhea.'"


"And then, I would pause for a little bit," Halloran continued. "Then I would ask what the person I'm talking to knows about gonorrhea."

Call recipients react different, in Halloran's experience. "Some people cry, some people get really angry, some people don't want to talk to me at all," she said. "A lot of people are really anxious to know who it was [who gave them the infection]. Of course, I can't say anything whatsoever that would identify that."

Yikes. The Spokane Regional Health District's move isn't just meant to allow their patients to save face, though. Apparently, a number of patients wouldn't bother notifying their past — or present, or future — lovers about the possibility of an STD. You can never say it enough: Use protection, and make sure you talk about your sexual health with your partner — whether it's you or your appointed social worker that'll have to do the calling.

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