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Health Officials Warn Users of Gay Pickup Websites

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FAIRBANKS, Alaska – State public health officials have begun sending health messages to Fairbanks men who use websites to solicit sex with same-sex partners.

The messages sent two weeks ago from the Division of Public Health officials warn gay men to get tested for HIV.

The Fairbanks-area users of “men seeking men” and “casual encounters” sections of Craigslist and another website received one of two messages. The messages warn of a recent increase of new HIV cases and give information about free, confidential testing.

Susan Jones, HIV/STD program manager for the epidemiology section, said the websites were identified repeatedly during an investigation into the increase in HIV cases.

“There was one new case last year and a couple of new cases this year,” Jones said. “They were all connected (to these sites), so we decided to do this.”

She told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner that the targeting of gay men’s pickup sites is common in the Lower 48 and the practice is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control.

Some members of the gay community have expressed dismay at what they perceived as the intrusive nature of the messages. However, Tracey White, client services director for the Interior Aids Association, said she had not received client complaints.

“My feedback is that there hasn’t been any feedback, positive or negative,” she said.

Jones said this is the first time the state has done this type of outreach, and she does not think it is intrusive because “we have a responsibility to help Alaskans stay free of HIV infection.”

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