Partner notification is an essential part of case management for sexually transmitted infections. Done correctly it reduces persistent or recurrent infection in the index patient, identifies previously undiagnosed infections, and may thus contribute to reduced transmission in the population. The effectiveness of patient referral of partners can be enhanced through the provision of written information and easy access to tests and medication. A recent systematic review of partner notification found that enhanced partner therapy (helping get treatment to partners more rapidly) reduced re-infection in the index case by almost 30% compared with simple patient referral. Provider referral, where the healthcare worker contacts partners directly, can also be effective, and provides an important service for patients who are wary of informing partners themselves. Partner notification services should be available for all patients found to have a sexually transmitted infection, whether the diagnosis is made in specialist settings, or in primary or community-based care. For patients with HIV, partner notification should be addressed when the infection is first diagnosed and revisited for subsequent partners. Access to specialist partner notification services is an important part of any sexual healthcare system. The professional competencies required to undertake partner notification have now been clearly defined.
Keywords: Contact tracing; HIV prevention and control; HIV transmission; sexual partners; sexually transmitted diseases.