Purpose of review: Partner notification is an essential element of sexually transmitted disease infection control. Patients may be interviewed by public health staff, followed by public health staff notification of those partners (provider referral), or they receive some form of instruction to notify and refer their own partners (patient referral). In this review, we review partner notification and current research and programmatic activity.
Recent findings: Resource limitations restrain provider referral to a minority of cases. Patient referral is far more widely practiced and is the subject of some recent enhancements. Foremost among these is the growing practice of expedited partner therapy, in which partner treatment may occur through the provision of medications or prescriptions prior to a clinical evaluation. Trials in which patients took medications to their partners have been supported, and the practice is gaining acceptance nationally. Other counseling also increases patient referral efficacy. Finally, the role of the internet in both provider and patient referral has received increasing attention and is being incorporated into program practice.
Summary: Clinical providers can intervene at the point of care to serve both patients as individuals and infection control more broadly. Cooperation between public health agencies, other organizations and clinical providers can facilitate both goals.