Background: Partner services have been a mainstay of public health sexually transmitted disease (STD) prevention programs for decades. The principal goals are to interrupt transmission and reduce STD morbidity and sequelae. In this article, we review current literature with the goal of informing STD prevention programs.
Methods: We searched the literature for systematic reviews. We found 9 reviews published between 2005 and 2014 (covering 108 studies). The reviews varied by study inclusion criteria (e.g., study methods, geographic location, and infections). We abstracted major conclusions and recommendations from the reviews.
Results: Conclusions and recommendations were divided into patient referral interventions and provider referral interventions. For patient referral, there was evidence supporting the use of expedited partner therapy and interactive counseling, but not purely didactic instruction. Provider referral through Disease Intervention Specialists was efficacious and particularly well supported for HIV. For other studies, modeling data and testing outcomes showed that partner notification in general reached high-prevalence populations. Reviews also suggested more focus on using technology and population-level implementation strategies. However, partner services may not be the most efficient means to reach infected persons.
Conclusions: Partner services programs constitute a large proportion of program STD prevention activities. Value is maximized by balancing a portfolio of patient and provider referral interventions and by blending partner notification interventions with other STD prevention interventions in overall partner services program structure. Sexually transmitted disease prevention needs program-level research and development to generate this portfolio.