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Partner Services

Partner services include voluntary assistance with advising patients’ partners of possible exposure and referring them to appropriate services.  All persons who test positive for HIV infection should be offered partner services soon after diagnosis.

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What is partner services?

Partner services is the term for a set of free services provided by local and state health department staff to help stop the spread of infectious diseases.  When people are diagnosed with HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), staff work with them to make sure their partners are informed about possible exposure; have access to HIV or other STD testing, counseling, and treatment; and are linked to other services, as needed.  (For information on CDC guidance and recommendations for partner services, refer to: http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/pwp/partnerservices.html)

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Why do it?  What are the benefits?

  • Gives patients discrete and confidential options for letting their partners know they may have been exposed to HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases
  • Can identify persons with HIV efficiently
  • May be used to help HIV-infected persons link to or re-enter care
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What are some of the barriers to partner services?

  • HIV testing by organizations without established referral procedures for partner services
  • Insufficient time, knowledge, or skills for eliciting partner information or for conducting partner services
  • Vulnerability to breaches of confidentiality
  • Distrust of partner referral systems, especially among adolescents, undocumented immigrants, migrant workers, and incarcerated people
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What are some strategies to improve delivery of partner services?

  • Create collaborations between HIV counseling and testing providers and local health departments to establish infrastructure for partner services referral and delivery
  • Ensure confidentiality at all times
  • Provide education and support for providers and patients about the benefits of partner services
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Who is involved to make it work?

Partner services primarily involves the patient, health department staff who are specifically trained to provide these services, and those who refer patients to partner services.  It also may include linkage to providers of medical care and other prevention and support services. 

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Samuel’s Story

My job is tracking people down who may not even know they’re at risk for HIV because they have had sex with someone who tested positive.  Recently, I dealt with a case where this man – let’s call him Zeke – had potentially exposed five partners.  When I interviewed him, he wasn’t shy at all about talking about the people he’d had sex with and all the information he had about them, but he admitted a couple...

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