According to the study’s lead author, assisted partner notification is valuable because it gives the newly diagnosed HIV patient options, as well as room to consider them, which translates to more people learning their own HIV status. “Passive referral can also result in the notification and testing of partners, but far fewer do so with this approach than when assistance is offered,” Shona Dalal, PhD a consultant in the department of HIV/AIDS at WHO, told Contagion®
. “This may be for many reasons—people may feel more comfortable notifying/discussing their diagnosis with committed partners than with casual or other short-term partnerships, individual relationship dynamics differ and may impact notification, and so forth. And so, having the option of a provider contacting partners and offering them testing gives people an alternative if they don’t want to have the conversation themselves.”
Assisted partner notification includes contract referral, which involves an HIV-positive person entering into a contract with his or her provider that states he or she will reach out to all partners in a timely manner to let them know of the risk of HIV. If the partners do not come in for testing, or contact a provider within that time, the provider will then contact the partners and encourage them to get tested without revealing who the HIV-positive patient is. Another option is provider referral, which involves the provider contacting all partners directly. Finally, there’s dual referral, in which the provider and the HIV-positive patient together notify partners. The study authors asserted that when HIV-positive patients opted for assisted notification of their partners in any of these forms, more partners got tested, were identified as being HIV positive, and were referred at higher rates to ART providers.
Laurie Saloman, MS, is a health writer with more than 20 years of experience working for both consumer and physician-focused publications. She is a graduate of Brandeis University and the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. She lives in New Jersey with her family.
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