The Reincarnation of Partner Services

Charles Fann
Charles Fann

When the concept of “contact-tracing” was first introduced in the late-1930s, venereal diseases like syphilis were being transmitted at staggering rates. The idea of interviewing patients with infections to gain access to their partners to offer them screening and treatment was considered radical by some due to the stigma associated with having diseases like syphilis.

Over the nearly one hundred years since the idea was first introduced, there have been many advances in screening and treatment. Contact-tracing, now known as partner services, continues to aid us in reducing the transmission of diseases. Through partner services, we are able to offer people who contract diseases a confidential way of notifying their partners in a timely fashion, which gives partners the opportunity to access screening and treatment, if needed.

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The importance of partner services is no more apparent than today. As sexually transmitted diseases increase in the age of “hooking-up” through smartphones and the Internet, partner services is in the middle of one of its greatest re-incarnations. Partner Services programs around the globe are having to shift strategies and approaches so they can continue to offer services. Up and until the early 2000s, clients interested in partner services were asked to give us home addresses, landline phone numbers, pager numbers, and possibly hangouts. Present day forms of communication have required us to revise our policies around what we use to contact partners (i.e. email addresses and internet handles).

  • How do we provide effective partner services in today’s context? There are a number of things we can keep in mind:
  • Enhance our interview techniques: Learning how to collect and use Internet handles, email addresses and other social media data. Also, how to talk about and promote bio-medical interventions (i.e. PEP, PrEP).
  • Working with companies who run the websites clients are using to meet partners to promote screening, partner services, etc.

More importantly, we need to continue to promote the benefits of partner services to the community. At its core, partner services is built on the principal of the community and public health working together to intervene in the transmission of communicable diseases.

Interested in learning more? Join me for a webinar on partner services where I’ll talk more about how partner services has changed and how we can provide effective partner services in today’s Internet-driven landscape.

Info on webinar:

Date: Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2014

Time: 11 am PST

Register here! Be sure to complete the HPAT as well!

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