Contact tracing is an important part of the clinical management of patients diagnosed with STIs. For most STIs and blood-borne infections, primary care providers, such as general practitioners, are best placed to assist patients in undertaking contact tracing. GPs or the Primary Care Provider have a legal responsibility to ensure contact tracing takes place.
Contact tracing has not only public health benefits but also health benefits for the individual with the infection and their partners. Contact tracing can prevent reinfection of the index patient. It can identify contacts who may benefit from medical treatment before they become symptomatic.
In most cases, contact tracing can be undertaken by the index patient (patient referral), with health care provider assistance as an alternative option (provider referral). This needn’t be a complex or time-consuming exercise – generally it simply involves a discussion between health care provider and the patient.
In certain circumstances where infection is not immediately attributable to sexual or injecting drug use (IDU) transmission, consultation with specialist services for advice or assistance with detailed risk assessment and contact tracing is strongly recommended. In cases where health care providers do not feel adequately equipped to assist index patients or trace contacts, referral to or consultation with a specialist centre should also be considered. See the Register of Public sexual health clinics in Australia and New Zealand for a list of specialist services.