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Components of Effective Internet Partner Services

Frank Strona
Frank Strona

Internet Partner Services is a very important element of partner services and when done effectively, provides wider access to individuals who may have been exposed to HIV. Using the Internet in partner services also allows public health officials to find people where they are most likely to be found in today’s Internet-driven landscape, online, especially if traditional partner services notification methods are not effective in reaching them.

We sat down with Frank Strona for a brief chat about what it means to provide effective Internet Partner Services and the components jurisdictions should keep in mind when implementing an Internet Partner Services element to their partner services strategy.

  • How does Internet Partner Services fit into the HIV Prevention Toolkit?

Internet Partner Services (IPS) serves as an additional way to reach those who may have been exposed to HIV or who may have an undiagnosed infection. IPS does not replace traditional partner notification services but is an additional tool to reach those for whom traditional notifying information is not known or to supplement traditional efforts by providing access to information that facilitates notification.  The power comes in the synergistic effect of using the tools that best fit the situation, environment and need.

  • Why is it important for jurisdictions to invest in IPS?

IPS is a natural adaption that allows jurisdictions to reach at-risk populations where they are and respond to the growing and ever changing ways in which the populations we serve use technology. It was only a few short years ago that surfing the net wasn’t even a thought on a phone – now it’s a primary component.

For more, see The Reincarnation of Partner Services

  • What are three things that jurisdictions should keep in mind to effectively provide IPS?
  1. Staffing: Having the right staff is very important; having “everyone” trained doesn’t ensure success. But selecting those with an aptitude and desire, along with an understanding of the online cultures and tools is an added benefit.
  2. Support: This means leadership buy-in, the right equipment, and provision of trainings.
  3. Supervision: Good supervisors lead to successful programs; IPS cannot replace traditional face-to-face partner services efforts but can provide supplementary access and outreach capabilities.
  • What are some challenges in providing effective Internet Partner Services?

Some? There are many challenges!  But some that are most prominent are the following: People change profiles or may have multiple profiles online; not all Internet-based applications and website owners are welcoming to our efforts and some have structural and/or technical limitations that make the access difficult; time and access; and ultimately, cultural competency.

For more on technology and how it can be used in prevention, join Frank Strona and Rachel Kachur for a webinar on an overview of technology-based sex seeking. A recording of the webinar can be found here.

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