Introduction to the Australasian Contact Tracing Guidelines
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 by the diagnosing clinician. Research shows that a substantial proportion of these patient’s partners will be infected but unaware of this, warranting efforts to ensure partner notification is facilitated and completed successfully[1,2]. 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 these 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 conversations on partner notification with their patients or prevent health care providers from contacting partners on their patient’s behalf’ Such barriers may include but are not limited to clinician discomfort raising sexual health histories with patients, a need to prioritise other health issues over partner notification, patients reluctance to disclose how many sexual partners they have had or limited knowledge or training on how to address partner notification. The Australasian Contact Tracing Guidelines 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. Use of social networks allows for anonymous sexual encounters and may facilitate risky sexual behaviours such as multiple partners and condomless sex[4,5]. 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 guidelines and hope you will find it a helpful resource.
Jane Tomney 2022
Note: The term “health care provider” encompasses reference to general practitioners, primary care providers, nurses and other medical professionals providing sexual health services.
Page last updated October 2022