HIV/STI partner notification by providers

Evidence Rating  
Scientifically Supported
Evidence rating: Scientifically Supported

Strategies with this rating are most likely to make a difference. These strategies have been tested in many robust studies with consistently positive results.

Health Factors  

In HIV/STI partner notification by providers, known as provider referral, patients who test positive for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) voluntarily share information about current or past sex and needle-sharing partners with a health care provider; providers notify partners of their potential risk and help them seek counseling, testing, and prevention and care as appropriate1, 2. Provider referral is most often used for patients with HIV and syphilis3. Notification is often completed by disease information specialists at public health departments or similar public health personnel4.

What could this strategy improve?

Expected Benefits

Our evidence rating is based on the likelihood of achieving these outcomes:

  • Increased STI testing
What does the research say about effectiveness? This strategy is rated scientifically supported.

There is strong evidence that partner notification by provider referral increases testing for HIV among partners of newly diagnosed patients1, 5 and increases identification of HIV in undiagnosed individuals1, 4, 5.

Based on effectiveness among HIV patients, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also recommends patient notification by provider referral for syphilis and, in high priority cases, gonorrhea and chlamydia3. When resources do not allow provider referral, CDC recommends that patients infected with chlamydia and gonorrhea be counseled to inform their partners3. Additional research is needed to confirm the most effective type of referral for STIs other than HIV4.

Use of electronic notification options such as text messaging, email, social networking and other websites and apps appear to be acceptable, particularly when partners might not have been notified6 or been unreachable without electronic notification7.

How could this strategy impact health disparities? This strategy is rated no impact on disparities likely.
Implementation Examples

Partner notification services appear to be used widely; in 2016, most surveyed STI testing sites reported providing some form of partner notification services8.

Implementation Resources

CDC-HIV Partner services - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). HIV, Hepatitis, STD and TB Partner Services. Contains recommendations at the state and local level to increase program collaboration, service integration, and decrease costs.

WI DHS-HIV partner services - Wisconsin Department of Health Services (WI DHS). HIV partner services.


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1 CG-HIV/AIDS and pregnancy - The Guide to Community Preventive Services (The Community Guide). HIV/AIDS, STIs, and pregnancy.

2 Hogben 2007 - Hogben M, McNally T, McPheeters M, Hutchinson AB. The effectiveness of HIV partner counseling and referral services in increasing identification of HIV-positive individuals a systematic review. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 2007;33(2 Suppl):S89-S100.

3 CDC MMWR-Partner services 2008 - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Recommendations for partner services programs for HIV infection, syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydial infection. Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). 2008;57(RR-09):1-83.

4 Cochrane-Ferreira 2013 - Ferreira A, Young T, Mathews C, Zunza M, Low N. Strategies for partner notification for sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2013;(10):CD002843.

5 Hogben 2016 - Hogben M, Collins D, Hoots B, O'Connor K. Partner services in STD prevention programs: A review. Sexually Transmitted Diseases. 2016;43(Suppl 1):S53-S62.

6 Pellowski 2016 - Pellowski J, Mathews C, Kalichman MO, et al. Advancing partner notification through electronic communication technology: A review of acceptability and utilization research. Journal of Health Communication. 2016;21(6):629-637.

7 Hochberg 2015 - Hochberg CH, Berringer K, Schneider JA. Next-generation methods for HIV partner services: A systematic review. Sexually Transmitted Diseases. 2015;42(9):533-539.

8 Desir 2016 - Desir FA, Ladd JH, Gaydos CA. Survey of partner notification practices for sexually transmissible infections in the United States. Sexual Health. 2016;13(2):162.

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