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Introduction to Contact Tracing

When patients are diagnosed with a treatable sexually transmissible infection it is vital that testing and treatment of their sexual partners is properly considered, discussed and supported. Research shows that a substantial proportion of the partners of such patients will be infected but unaware of this, warranting efforts to ensure partner notification is facilitated and completed successfully. Treatment of infected partners will help them avoid complications and reduce the duration of infectiousness, potentially curbing further unintended sexual transmission. This is particularly important where HIV is concerned. Identification of new cases of HIV through partner notification means those individuals can commence antiretroviral therapy earlier, improving their prognosis and limiting further transmission of HIV.

The barriers to successful partner notification can, however, deter some health care providers from initiating the conversation with their patients or from contacting partners on behalf of their patients. The Australasian Contact Tracing Manual aims to provide practical support and guidance to health care providers to enhance the effectiveness of partner notification. How we help patients contact partners will depend on multiple factors including patient preference and the skills of the provider. Increasingly, people are using the internet, including social media and mobile phone applications, to find their sexual partners. In some cases, this is hindering partner notification. How these evolving technologies can be harnessed to improve partner testing and treatment should be the focus of continuing research and innovation in service delivery.

On behalf of the expert writing committee, I wish to convey my sincere thanks to everyone who has contributed their time and expertise to this updated edition of the manual and hope you will find it a helpful resource.

Jane Tomnay
April 2021