There is a high level of coinfection with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) among persons diagnosed with syphilis in the United States. Public health workers at state and local health departments help inform exposed partners to sexually transmitted disease (STD)/HIV infections to facilitate early testing and treatment (partner services). The federal initiative, Ending the HIV Epidemic (EHE), identifies 4 key strategies: diagnose, treat, prevent, and respond. This study describes the contributions of syphilis partner services to the EHE strategies in a county prioritized by the EHE plan.
A retrospective record review of reported early syphilis cases (less than 1 year's duration) between 2016 and 2018 in the Indianapolis area was conducted to determine the extent of new HIV diagnoses, retention in HIV care, and other evidence-based HIV prevention interventions occurring after provision of syphilis partner services.
A total of 752 partners to early syphilis were attempted to be notified of exposure. There were 1,457 case patients and partners that received STD/HIV prevention counseling; 400 partners received STD treatment, 352 partners learned their HIV status, and 22 received new HIV diagnoses, with 68% retained in medical care and 60% virally suppressed. Two thirds of partner services were completed within 21 days. New HIV positivity among partners to HIV-negative syphilis case patients was 3.5% and 14% among HIV-positive syphilis case patients.
Partner services for syphilis was an effective method of addressing the EHE strategies, resulting in persons at risk tested, STD treatment provided, behavioral prevention counseling provided, and new HIV cases identified, leading to retention in medical care and viral suppression.