By Mort Laitner
I opened my email to find a curious assignment:
“Based upon your creativity, writing skills and knowledge of our program, you have been selected to draft sexually transmitted disease E-cards.
The purpose of the E-card is for one infected partner to anonymously inform his or her sexual contacts that they may have been exposed to an STD. Our idea is if you can’t tell them in person or on the phone, in Florida there is another option. Please draft five E-cards and submit to my office by COB next Friday. Thanks for your assistance.”
I thought, “What an interesting assignment. What a challenge. Where do I start?”
I called my associate, an epidemiologist who said, “Remember the three Rs—Research, Research, and Research. Go to the CDC site on venereal diseases. Go to the Florida Department of Health site and look at their present selection of E-cards. Remember this is a serious assignment– try not to be funny.”
I replied, “You mean like,
Roses are red.
Violets are blue.
I have an STD
And now you may too.”
“NOOO!” My associate screamed. “STDs cause depression. This is a time when the recipient needs compassion or simpatico. Humor will only make things worse and could make the reader angry. They won’t take the E-card seriously. We want the recipient to go to our clinics or see their family doctor.”
“Okay, here is another one.” I said.
“I don’t want to scare the hell out of you, but I recently found out that I have one of those diseases you catch when you make love. Since you and I have made love on numerous occasions, I am bound to inform you that the medical community recommends that you get tested. Sorry for any inconvenience this may cause you. I also want to apologize for this tacky means of communication. But I didn’t have the guts to tell you face to face.”
My associate answered, “That’s more like it. I think a little bit more remorse and stress the importance of getting tested as soon as possible. Here is a Hallmark example,
‘I can’t stop thinking about you…
Because I feel so bad I may have given you an STD.’”
“How about using the old good-news-bad-news routine?” I queried.
“Please give me an example.” The epidemiologist asked.
“The good news is I am warning you about protecting your health and the health of those who you hold dear.
The bad news is I may have given you a venereal disease. So go see your physician ASAP. ”
“How’s that for stressing the importance of seeking medical care?” I asked.
I continued, “Okay, before I start my research, I’m going to give it one more shot… no pun intended.
The E-card reads:
Let’s play a rhyming game.
What rhymes with gonorrhea?
Forget the game.
Go see your doctor!”
My associate chuckled and said, “I’d love to see your five E-cards when they’re done. I’ll drop by around four on Friday. Good luck.”
One hour before close of business on Friday afternoon, my associate strolled into my office. “Buddy, how’s that e-card assignment going? Did you do the research I recommended?”
I interlocked my fingers, stretched my arms foreword and listened to my knuckles crack. Then I said, “Yup. That was good advice you gave me to go to the CDC and DOH websites. I was surprised to see that the CDC has a whole catalogue of electronic postcards. They have made it a cottage industry. They have E-cards on such varied subjects as traveler’s health, environment health, and emergency preparedness. They got E-cards for every seasonal or holiday occasion.
“Who would have known?” my associate replied.
“Yeah, The CDC has become the Hallmark in the health care E-card industry.” I commented.
“Their cards are factoids of STD info like: one in four Americans have an STD. Almost half of all STDs occur in 15-24 year olds. Then the kicker, “I got tested did you?” They leave a space for the sender to personalize their message.
“Their approach seems pretty dry and straight foreword.” He said.
I’ll read you one more.
“Chlamydia often has no signs or symptoms. The only way to know is to get tested— It is estimated that two million Americans have Chlamydia. Most of those who have it don’t know it either. You may want a baby one day, so get tested yearly with a simple urine test.”
“That one is scary.” He said.
“Here is one on syphilis:
‘Don’t just wait and see. Just because a sore may be painless or disappear, doesn’t mean the disease is gone. Get tested today.’”
“Pretty dry, I hope the Health Department E-cards out classed the CDC cards. The States always seem a little more relaxed then the Feds.” The Epidemiologist stated.
“Well, they did. DOH used the word ‘hookups’ in their message, I gave them points for trying to be hip. They posted a bunch of cards like the flamboyant disco E-card card covered on one side with flashing yellow neon and flickering green strobe lights and on the other with a bare-chested male which reads:
It’s not what you brought to the party;
it’s what you left with.
I left with an STD.
You might have too. Get checked out soon.
“I just had a flash back to the early eighties, the pre-AIDS Studio 54 days!” The epidemiologist added.
There is one in Spanish which is colored with swashes of organic greens, yellows and oranges, and which kind of translates,
Who? What? When? Why? And How?
It’s not important, please get examined.
Finally, there’s the one I like best, an index finger and thumb hold a Post-it which reads,
“I’m so sorry.
I didn’t know I had a STD when we were together.
You should get tested.”
“Very touching, like Susan Boyle on YouTube– now let me hear your E-card recommendations.” My associate demanded.
“I’m so sorry buddy, I got depressed doing the research and declined the assignment.” I replied.
For those who desire to become more aware about anonymous STD E-cards, go to: www.inSPOT.org/Florida
If you have suggestions for STD E-Cards, the Editors of Healthy Stories are accepting submissions.