New report on HIV partner notification reveals missed opportunities for HIV testing, diagnosis and prevention.
NAT today launches a new report ‘HIV Partner Notification: a missed opportunity?’ which looks at the forgotten role of HIV partner notification as a driver of HIV testing and earlier diagnosis, and as a valuable prevention tool.
Partner notification is the process of contacting sexual partners of an individual diagnosed with an STI, including HIV, and advising them they’ve been exposed to infection and encouraging them to get tested. When conducted thoroughly, HIV partner notification has been proven to be a highly effective way of getting people tested and diagnosed with HIV. For example, some audits show up to 37% of partners traced and tested through partner notification were newly diagnosed HIV positive as a result.
However – despite the fact that 25% of people with HIV in the UK do not know they have it – current approaches to HIV partner notification have not kept pace with the advances in treatment, knowledge and new technology. Implementation of HIV partner notification remains under-resourced and patchy at best, and its potential contribution to earlier diagnosis has been neglected.
- Sexual health clinics should use online technology such as messaging via gay dating websites and smart-phone apps within their partner notification processes.
- Clear national standards for HIV partner notification should be introduced, including HIV-specific guidance for healthcare workers (as is done for other STIs such as chlamydia).
- Clinics should be properly commissioned and resourced to do high quality partner notification and should look to incorporate further support for patients around HIV disclosure.
- Communities most at risk of HIV such as gay men and African communities should be told about the benefits of partner notification.
Deborah Jack, Chief Executive of NAT (National AIDS Trust), comments:
‘HIV is still a highly stigmatised condition and this can make it very difficult for a person diagnosed with HIV to share their status with other people, particularly previous sexual partners. We know how effective HIV partner notification can be in getting people who may be at risk tested and diagnosed but it is not clear that this message is well communicated to patients. Most people with HIV, when they understand the benefits of partner notification, are keen to do the right thing but they might not necessarily know how. This report puts the spotlight on why we need to start taking HIV partner notification seriously, as well as the various ways we can shake up and modernise the current system – in order to utilise it as an effective tool for testing, diagnosis and prevention.’
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Notes to the editor:
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NAT (National AIDS Trust) is the UK’s leading charity dedicated to transforming society’s response to HIV. We provide fresh thinking, expertise and practical resources. We champion the rights of people living with HIV and campaign for change.
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