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Contact tracing—where do we go from here?
  1. K Radcliffe,
  2. J Clarke
  1. Department of Genitourinary Medicine, Whitall Street Clinic, Birmingham B4 6DH
  2. Department of Genitourinary Medicine, Clayton House, Northgate, Wakefield, West Yorkshire, WS1 3JS

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Since it was developed in the United States in the 1930s contact tracing, also known as partner notification, has come to be regarded as a key element in the control of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and has been implemented in many parts of the world.1 2 The sexual partners of individuals with STI or HIV infection are notified, counselled on their exposure, and offered medical services.3 Sexual partners may be informed by the index patient (partner referral), a healthcare worker (provider referral), or a conditional approach, where initial partner referral is followed by provider referral after an agreed interval. Partner referral involves a health education interview with the index case possibly supplemented by contact slips; provider referral involves healthcare workers tele-phoning, writing to, or visiting contacts. Possible benefits include reduction in morbidity in the contacts through earlier treatment; reduction in the transmission of STIs by contacts through treatment and health education; and gaining insight into patterns of spread.

Sexual health services now face critical appraisal, both from purchasers of services and from non-specialists who are screening for STIs in areas such as primary care and family planning clinics. What evidence is there for the benefits of contact tracing? How should contact tracing evolve to meet the needs of these new patient groups, who may be …

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