To the Editor:
Internet access and use of the World Wide Web for health information has become a reality for many persons in the United States. During January 1999, we conducted a survey among clients at San Francisco City Clinic, the only comprehensive municipal sexually transmitted disease (STD) clinic in the San Francisco Bay area, to ascertain characteristics about Internet access and use among our clients.
Of the 185 consecutive clients surveyed, 74 (40%) had a computer in their home with Internet access. Of these, 62 (84%) accessed the Internet in the past 6 months and 21 (28%) had used the Internet to locate information on STDs. Because 21 (11%) of 185 clients of City Clinic had recently used the Internet for information on STDs we developed our own Website (www.sfcityclinic.org) that was launched on April 23, 1999.
Our Website highlights the hours, location, and quality of services at City Clinic, provides basic information on STDs, offers links to other Websites with information on safer sex and specific STDs, and has an interactive query section, "Ask Dr. K" whereby visitors can ask questions related to sexual health.
To date, with no advertising or outreach efforts, we have had an average of one query ("Ask Dr. K") about sexual health a day. Over the ensuing months, we will be expanding our efforts to inform persons about the existence of the Website and tracking the number of hits to the City Clinic Website and the number of queries to "Ask Dr. K" by month. The cost to set up this Website was approximately $3,200 paid to a Website developer who, using existing materials, created and completed the site within 3 weeks.
Websites for information on sexual health and STDs may be an important means for persons to learn about these diseases and to increase access to appropriate medical care.