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Partner notification feasible and effective in African settings
Roger Pebody, 2016-02-25 00:10:00

Partner notification programmes, offering HIV testing to the sexual partners of people newly diagnosed with HIV, have rarely been implemented in African countries, but can be highly effective there, studies presented to the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI 2016) in Boston show. A randomised study in Kenya found that partner notification services were able to test 42% of partners mentioned, increasing testing rates fourfold.

Partner notification (also referred to as 'partner services') aims to curb the spread of sexually transmitted infections by testing and treating the sexual partners of newly diagnosed people. The intervention typically involves a public health worker interviewing people diagnosed with an STI (called ‘index cases’) about their sexual partner(s) and then helping the index case notify their partners and arrange testing. Index cases may contact partners themselves, or contact may be made by healthcare workers (usually without revealing the identity of the index patient).

Although it is resource-intensive, partner notification can be cost-effective as it can prevent new cases of HIV infection.

Although widely used in North America and the United States, there is limited experience of using partner notification in African countries. Some of the only data come from Malawi and Cameroon. Differences in culture, health systems, perceptions of HIV infection, the social status of women and young people, and existing rates of HIV testing could affect the feasibility and effectiveness of partner notification in Africa.