San Francisco Chronicle Examines Partner Notification as HIV Prevention Method
The San Francisco Chronicle on Monday examined the increasing role of partner notification in the battle against HIV/AIDS in California and across the U.S. Partner notification, which emerged from the contact tracing method used since the 1940s to curb the spread of syphilis, notifies the sexual partners of people who test positive for HIV and is "a more efficient and focused way to test for HIV," according to the Chronicle. The HIV-prevalence rate among sexual partners of those who have tested positive for HIV nationwide is estimated at around 20%, and most partner-notification programs are aimed at people who are unaware of their HIV status. According to Disclosure Assistance and Partner Services, a partner-notification program working on behalf of the San Francisco Department of Public Health, encouraging newly diagnosed clients to provide a list of sexual partners is "among the most sensitive tasks for team members," and all disclosures therefore are voluntary, the Chronicle reports. The DAPS program, which advises partners who have been exposed to HIV to access the city's free testing services, does not reveal the name of the HIV-positive client. Since 1985, when an HIV antibody test became available, it has been recommended that HIV-positive individuals be counseled to notify their sexual partners. Despite such recommendations, a University of Washington survey finds that only 30% of HIV-positive people nationwide reported receiving such counseling. To reduce the estimated 40,000 new HIV cases that occur annually in the U.S., CDC in April 2003 issued a redesigned federal HIV prevention strategy highlighting partner notification. Although some opponents of partner notification say that the method infringes on privacy rights, programs are being expanded statewide in California, as well as nationwide. In 2004, one year after San Francisco increased partner notification efforts, a report published in the New England Journal of Medicine finds that 112 partners of 136 clients newly diagnosed with HIV were notified through the DAPS program, resulting in the detection of 10 new HIV cases (Russell, San Francisco Chronicle, 1/9).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.