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Ways of notifying contacts

There are different methods by which contacts can be informed:

  • In person
  • Mobile or home telephone
  • SMS
  • Social Media
  • Email
  • Letter
  • Referral to a specialist agency

Resources that are available to support both patients and health care providers to undertake partner notification are listed below. Research suggests that the availability of such resources is likely to result in a greater number of partners being informed.

Resources to enhance partner notification - Patient Referral

MethodPatient Referral

Resources

For patients

Information on STIs

SMS or email notification services

Tips for patients on how to contact and have a conversation with partners

Supports Provided

Websites with information about STIs which are useful for index patients including patient handouts

Offer individuals the option of notifying contacts via email or SMS either personally or anonymously.

Include advice on possible wording to use with example scenarios

Available At

www.sesiahs.health.nsw.gov.au/sydhosp/Services/sshc.asp

www.mshc.org.au

www.stdservices.on.net

www.letthemknow.org.au

www.thedramadownunder.info (targets MSM)*

www.letthemknow.org.au

Resources to enhance partner notification - Provider Referral

MethodProvider Referral

Resources

For professionals

STI management guidelines and contact tracing letters

Specialist agencies

Supports Provided

Treatment guidelines on STIs

Letters that can be given to patients to give to their partners

Access to greater expertise and possible assistance with notifying partners

Available At

www.sesiahs.health.nsw.gov.au/sydhosp/Services/sshc.asp

www.mshc.org.au

www.stdservices.on.net

*MSM - men who have sex with men.

 

Studies have shown that, given the nature of information they are relaying, most index patients like to tell their partners in person or over the telephone. In some circumstances, such as when a contact was a casual partner or if there is concern over how the partner may react, the use of email, SMS or a health care provider/service may be preferred.

Contact Tracing via Social Media

Social media is a common way for people to find partners for sex. Many mobile phone and desktop applications connect people and link friends of friends (e.g. Facebook or Tumblr). Other social media sites facilitate connecting potential sex partners in the same locality using GPS (e.g. Tinder, Badoo, Scruff or Grindr). Finally, there are also sites, explicit in nature, which enable people to intimately engage with others who share the same sexual preferences (e.g. BarebackRT or recon). Health care professionals, when performing contact tracing should routinely ask clients whether they have met partners online.

Contact tracing via social media is performed when there are no alternative ways to inform partners e.g. the index patient may only have a username for the contact which may not be genuine, there may be no telephone number or address. Research has demonstrated improved outcomes in HIV and syphilis notification and subsequent access to testing and treatment using this method. 

Like other methods, contact tracing via social media can be performed by the patient. Where the patient requests support from the health care provider, obtaining the correct identity or pseudonym (username), location and a detailed profile description is important. In this context, referring cases to a local specialist service for support in your Australian state or territory may enhance the outcome. It should be noted that the same legal constraints apply in association with privacy and disclosure as for any other method of contact tracing.

Victoria: Partner Notification Support Unit: 03) 9096 3367 
NSW: NSW Sexual Health Infolink: 02) 9382 7681
Queensland: HIV Public Health Team: 07) 3328 9797
Northern Territory: Clinic 34: 08) 8999 2410
Western Australia: Partner Notification Officers 08) 9222 8577
South Australia: Clinic 275: 08) 8222 2523
Tasmania: Tasmania Health: 03) 6166 0655
ACT: Canberra Sexual Health Clinic: 02) 6244 2184

References

National Collaborating Centre for infectious Diseases. Evidence review, New technologies for Partner Notifications for Sexually Transmitted Infections. Canada: NCCID, 2013. 
Bernstein K, Get those partners treated, Sex Trans Infect. 2013; 89 (Suppl 1) A40-A41

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