Background: The Internet has become a common venue for meeting sex partners and planning participation in risky sexual behavior. In this article, we evaluate the first 18 months of the Washington, DC, Department of Health Internet-based Partner Notification (IPN) program for early syphilis infections, using the standard Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Disease Investigation Specialist (DIS) disposition codes, as well as Washington, DC, Department of Health's IPN-specific outcomes for pseudonymous partners.
Methods: We analyzed DIS disposition codes and IPN-specific outcomes from all early syphilis investigations initiated January 2007–June 2008. Internet partners were defined as sex partners for whom syphilis exposure notification was initiated by e-mail because no other locating information existed. If the e-mails resulted in additional locating information, we used the standard CDC disposition codes. Alternatively, the following IPN-specific outcomes were used: Informed of Syphilis Exposure, Informed of General STD Exposure, Not Informed or Unable to Confirm Receipt of General STD Exposure.
Results: From the 361 early syphilis patients, a total of 888 sex partners were investigated, of which 381 (43%) were via IPN. IPN led to an 8% increase in the overall number of syphilis patients with at least one treated sex partner, 26% more sex partners being medically examined and treated if necessary, and 83% more sex partners notified of their STD exposure.
Conclusions: IPN augmented traditional syphilis case management and aided in the location, notification, testing, and treatment of partners. Conversely, without IPN, these 381 partners would not have been investigated.