Contact tracing for sexually transmissible infections
Ideally, when diagnosing / testing for sexually transmissible infections (STIs) the health practitioner would initiate a discussion about how partner/s will be notified before a positive test result is received. Your options to notify partner/s include notifying them yourself (health practitioner), supporting your patient to notify them (client notified) or enlisting contact tracing support staff specifically trained in this role. Contacts can be notified anonymously by any of these means (see below).
Contact tracing is only undertaken when an STI is diagnosed through an examination or a laboratory test.
Introduce the reasons for contact tracing - “it’s really important your partner/s get treated so you don’t get the infection again” or “most people with an STI don’t know they have it because they have no symptoms, but still could have complications or pass it on to others”.
Help identify which partner/s - need to be informed: a non-judgemental approach without making assumptions can allow a client to disclose partner/s and risks: people may have more than one sexual partner or partners from the same gender. All partners at risk can be offered testing and treatment.
Explain the methods and offer choice - different methods might be needed for each partner. “From what you have told me, there are a few people who need to be informed. How do you think you’ll go contacting them?” Methods available include in person, phone, SMS, email and provider referral. Some methods to notify can be anonymous for example web-based SMS, email.
Client referral - client chooses to notify own contacts; you discuss the information they will provide to their contacts. Review at the next consultation to see if they have contacted their partners.
Provider referral - you or a relevant health practitioner or specialist contact tracer can inform the contacts; gain consent of your client; notification is anonymous and maintains client confidentiality.
Partner notification websites - may be used by clients or health professionals:
- Let Them Know provides people who have been diagnosed with an STI with a way to tell their current and past sexual partners that they may also be at risk via a conversation, SMS, email or letter either personally or anonymously.
- The Drama Down Under provides information for men who have sex with men about the most common STIs, and provides a service to advise their sexual partners that they might also be at risk by sending an e-card or SMS either personally or anonymously. Men can also register to receive a regular reminder to have a sexual health check-up.
Better to Know provides information for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people about common STIs and provides a service to advise their sexual partners that they might also be at risk by sending an e-card or SMS, either personally or anonymously.
Further contact tracing advice
Support is available to educate and assist clinicians to undertake their own contact tracing for patients diagnosed with an STI and for further advice in complex situations. For example if there is concern over a violent reaction or history of domestic violence within a relationship, provider referral contact tracing would be recommended.
Officers are based in 5 locations across Queensland and provide services to their host and nearby Hospital and Health Services (HHS). Find your local HHS
Cairns Sexual Health Service - Phone (07) 4226 4769
- Torres and Cape
- Cairns and Hinterland
Townsville Sexual Health Service - Phone (07) 4433 9600
- North West
Sunshine Coast Sexual Health Service (Clinic 87) - Phone 0408 782 422 / (07) 5470 5244
- Central Queensland
- Central West
- Wide Bay
- Sunshine Coast
Princess Alexandra Sexual Health – Phone (07) 3176 7587
- Metro South
- Darling Downs
- West Moreton
- South West
Metro North Public Health Unit – Phone (07) 3624 1111
- Metro North
Other support services
Queensland Syphilis Surveillance Service - Phone 1800 032 238
The HIV Public Health Team - Phone (07) 3328 9797
Information on how far back to trace for different STIs is offered by the Australasian Contact Tracing Guidelines.