The Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) issued a health advisory on Feb. 1, 2016, to remind physicians and other health care providers about the importance of using partner services to prevent human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and other sexually transmitted diseases (STD).
Partner services include a variety of services available to those who are infected with HIV/STD and their sex or needle-sharing partners. These services include:
- Partner notification
- Prevention counseling
- Testing for HIV and other STDs
- Hepatitis screening and vaccination
- Treatment or linkage to medical care
- Linkage or referral to other prevention services
- Linkage or referral to other services
These services provide evidence-based interventions that are free, voluntary, and protected by confidentiality laws.
What Can Physicians Do to Help with Prevention?
Physicians and other providers have a critical role to play in identifying sex and needle-sharing partners and incorporating partner services as a routine standard of care. This can be accomplished by:
- Informing patients of the value and importance of partner services
- Identifying patients who have not received STD/HIV partner services or who need additional partner services
- Providing partner services directly to the client
- Referring the client to the local health department to ensure at-risk clients are routinely linked to needed care, prevention, and support services
- Notifying health department staff of elicited partners in order to ensure they are located and provided with necessary testing and prevention services, including referral and linkage to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), if appropriate
DOH and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provide HIV and STD partner services resources, including:
- CDC training resources
- DOH brochure entitled “Partner Services: The Role of the Health Care Provider”
- Telephone assistance from the DOH’s Bureau of Communicable Diseases (weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.):
- HIV Program: 717-783-0572
- STD Program: 717-787-3981
The Pennsylvania Medical Society also has resources, including an overview of the legal requirements for HIV testing, a customizable patient handout, and an example policy for routine HIV testing.