If health professionals are diagnosing and treating a client for HIV, it is extremely important that they discuss the need for partner notification with the client. If a person is diagnosed with HIV, then they have acquired their infection from another person, and possibly transmitted it on to other partners. Consideration of transmission risk in people who have HIV infection should include those who may have acquired the infection through unprotected sexual contact or sharing injecting equipment.
Partner notification is considered a cornerstone strategy in the public health management of HIV, and is undertaken for the following reasons:
- By contacting a partner who may be asymptomatic but have HIV infection, you may provide a reminder to him or her to have a test when he or she would normally not do so.
- Asymptomatic partners with the infection will avoid potentially serious sequelae, as treatment may prevent HIV-related complications which can be serious and costly.
- There is clear evidence that the earlier a person is diagnosed with HIV and commenced on treatment, the better their prognosis.
- Finding and arranging testing and treatment for partners exposed to HIV means that, if they have the infection, they will not inadvertently transmit the infection to their future partners.
- The more people who are treated for HIV in a community, the smaller the population pool of infection in that community will be. This in turn means that fewer people will be exposed to HIV.
- Making contact with partners provides the health-care worker with the opportunity to deliver personalised education and support to that partner; this will include prevention strategies aimed at reducing exposure to others in the future.
- Partner notification can also provide valuable data that inform policymakers and educators about an outbreak of an infection and consequently will assist them to plan effective preventive and management campaigns and strategies.