Background: The Internet and mobile devices are increasingly used by men who have sex with men to find potential partners. Lack of partner information, besides e-mail addresses or user profiles, limits the ability to adequately perform partner notification by traditional means and test those at high risk. To streamline North Carolina Internet Partner Notification (IPN) services, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill collaborated with the North Carolina Division of Public Health beginning in July 2011 to formalize state IPN and text messaging for partner notification (txtPN) policies and centralize notification practices by designating a single IPN/txtPN field coordinator within the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Methods: We compared the number of IPN and txtPN contacts initiated and their outcomes in July 1, 2011, to June 30, 2012, and compared with outcomes in January 1, 2010, to December 31, 2010, the year before the collaboration.
Results: Overall, 362 IPN contacts were initiated compared with 133 initiated in 2010. More than half (59.1%) were black; mean age was 28.8 years. Almost all were men who have sex with men (83.7%). Approximately two-thirds (n = 230; 63.5%) of contacts were successfully notified using centralized IPN. Seven new cases of HIV infection, 11 new cases of syphilis, and 19 known previous HIV-positive persons were identified. Text messaging for partner notification was used for 29 contacts who did not initially respond to traditional notification or IPN; 14 (48%) responded to txtPN in a median time of 57.5 minutes (interquartile range, 9–2708).
Conclusions: Centralization of IPN services augmented partner detection of new HIV and syphilis diagnoses. Text messaging for partner notification represents a potentially effective method for augmenting traditional partner services. In addition, IPN and txtPN allow identification of HIV-infected persons in need of linkage to care.