Partner notification in the United States: an evidence-based review

Am J Prev Med. 1999 Oct;17(3):230-42. doi: 10.1016/s0749-3797(99)00076-8.


Introduction: To conduct an evidence-based review of the literature on the effectiveness of partner notification strategies for syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in the United States.

Methods: Systematic literature searches of available databases yielded 212 English language articles on partner notification, 13 of which met the inclusion criteria. These 13 articles were systematically reviewed, abstracted, and rated for quality of study methods, analysis, and generalizability.

Results: Partner notification can newly detect HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases among partners. Of the six high-quality studies, the highest numbers of infections per infected person, 0.23 and 0.24, were detected by provider referral while the lowest number of infections per infected person, 0.03, was detected by self referral. None of the 13 studies examined the consequences of partner notification, such as infections or health consequences averted or changes in behavior and partnerships for infected persons or their partners.

Conclusions: There is good evidence that partner notification is a means of newly detecting infections. In addition, there is fair evidence that provider referral generally ensures that more partners are notified and medically evaluated than does self referral. More research is needed to improve elicitation and notification procedures and tailor them to specific populations, to assess the effect of new testing technologies on partner notification, and to understand the consequences of partner notification for infected persons and their partners.

MeSH terms

  • Chlamydia Infections / prevention & control
  • Chlamydia Infections / transmission
  • Contact Tracing*
  • Evaluation Studies as Topic
  • Gonorrhea / prevention & control
  • Gonorrhea / transmission
  • HIV Infections / prevention & control
  • HIV Infections / transmission
  • Humans
  • Referral and Consultation*
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases / transmission
  • Syphilis / prevention & control
  • Syphilis / transmission
  • United States