Talking to your ex is hard. Talking to your ex in the context of "Hey, you should get tested because I think I may have given you an STI during our halcyon days as lovers" is even harder. And, because humankind has an endless capacity for Relationship Cowardice, this sort of very awkward but extremely necessary conversation doesn't happen often enough. However, the Spokane Regional Health District hopes to work around this... by having a government worker track down your exes and notify them him or herself. Thanks, Obama? I don't know, guys.
Anna Halloran, an employee of the Spokane Regional Health District, described to NPR the process through which she cyber-stalks your ex even more vigilantly than you could ever hope to and then breaks the news to them without ever mentioning your name:
"I try phone, I try the mail," Halloran says. She'll try texting, Facebook, even tracking people down in person. "You know, it's a really sensitive subject. And it's really hard news for people to get." ...
"So I'll ask, 'Is this Jessica?' " Halloran says. "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," says Halloran. "Then I would ask what the person I'm talking to knows about gonorrhea."
Five counties in Washington are currently facing expanding gonorrhea outbreaks. A drug-resistant strain has already mutated in the world and laughs in the face of medicine internationally. Because the STD produces few symptoms before manifesting serious health problems, it's possible to be infected with (and spreading!) gonorrhea without realizing — so informing someone who may have contracted the STI is crucial.
It's terrifying to think that there are people out there who are like, "Eh, whatever. I don't wanna call my ex-boyfriend. That conversation will suck. He'll be fine — he'll catch on when the inflammation starts, or maybe the infertility." Since these types exist and proliferate, I'm relieved that this service exists. And apparently the conflict-avoidance doesn't end there: Halloran says she also has been asked to inform peoples' current partners their boyfriend or girlfriend has tested positive for gonorrhea. Fortunately, so far no one has asked her to do a third-party breakup.
(Seriously, though, I could get behind third party break-ups and fights. They could be kind of fun and allow you to dispassionately air your grievances. "Hello, this is Anna from the District Health Department. Just wanted to let you know that you've been diagnosed with a severe case of "You Played Games On Your Damn iPhone During All of Love, Actually And Then Said It Wasn't Good — Like You'd Know!!!")
"So, You Have Gonorrhea. Who Tells Your Ex?" [NPR]
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