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A Qualitative Study of Patients' Use of Expedited Partner Therapy

Temkin, Elizabeth MSN; Klassen, Ann C. PhD; Mmari, Kristin MA, DrPH; Gillespie, Duff G. PhD

Sexually Transmitted Diseases: July 2011 - Volume 38 - Issue 7 - p 651-656
doi: 10.1097/OLQ.0b013e31820cb206
Original Study

Background: In randomized controlled trials of expedited partner therapy (EPT), among patients in the EPT arm, the proportion of partners believed to have taken the medication ranged from 56% to 85%. Little is known about the content of successful and unsuccessful EPT negotiations between patients and their partners. The aim of this study was to describe how patients made decisions about EPT and what they did with the EPT medication packs dispensed to them.

Methods: We performed a qualitative study at the Baltimore City Health Department sexually transmitted disease clinics, which instituted an EPT pilot program in 2007. In-depth interviews were conducted with 31 patients, 1 week to 3 months after they had accepted EPT to bring to their partners. Taped interviews were transcribed verbatim and coded using ATLAS.ti 6 qualitative software. Codes were further combined into more comprehensive themes that were mapped onto the study's main aim.

Results: Participants were innovative about how to get medication to their partners and indicated a deep sense of concern and responsibility for their partners' health. On the other hand, participants reported of being anxious about the interaction and sometimes felt that they lacked the words to talk with their partners about EPT. Some participants used EPT in unexpected ways, such as giving it to people other than their sex partners or taking it themselves.

Conclusions: Enhancing the counseling that accompanies EPT may improve patients' success in delivering it to their partners.

In-depth interviews of patients who accepted expedited partner therapy revealed how they made decisions about expedited partner therapy and what they did with the medication packets.

From the Department of Population, Family and Reproductive Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD

The authors thank Jonathan Zenilman, Emily Erbelding, and Wynona China for their contributions to this manuscript.

Supported by the Johns Hopkins Training Program in Sexually Transmitted Infections (T32-A1050056).

Correspondence: Elizabeth Temkin, MSN, Department of Population, Family and Reproductive Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, 615 N. Wolfe St. Baltimore, MD 21205. E-mail:

Received for publication September 15, 2010, and accepted December 21, 2010.

© Copyright 2011 American Sexually Transmitted Diseases Association