Introduction Partner notification (PN) is pivotal in controlling spread of sexually transmitted infections (STI) by reducing onward transmission and preventing reinfection. We explored the experiences of patients undergoing PN after being diagnosed with a STI.
Methods 259 patients diagnosed with a STI over a 3 week period were invited to complete a PN survey comprising quantitative and qualitative questions. Qualitative data was analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA).
Results 76 patients, 20 female and 24 male responded (not all questions were answered). Mean age was 31 (range 16-58). 21 identified as single and 16 partnered. 29% said this was their first clinic attendance, 65% said this was their first ever STI diagnosis and 36% said they attended as a STI contact. Eight main themes were identified: (1) infection source; (2) how to contact partners; (3) difficult information to discuss ‘specific sexual acts performed with every one of them’; (4) uncertainty of partner testing and treatment; (5) concern of providing partner details; (6) future expectations; (7) use of social media; and (8) Health Adviser (HA) qualities. Patients understand PN, but face barriers due to partnership dynamics and lack the skills required for PN. Further partners were contacted following consultation with a HA. Evidence of alternative PN being offered (i.e. provider referral) was limited.
Discussion In line with BASHH guidelines, the importance of specialist staff in delivering PN was evident. Novel ways to facilitate sexual history taking and methods to contact partners (i.e. social media) are preferred and should be explored further.
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