By Jill Eversole in consultation with Bhupendra Sheoran, Executive Director of YTH.
When it comes to STIs, of course you want to encourage patients to get tested regularly (and to practice safe sex). But what if testing results in a positive STI diagnosis? You may be able to support your patient not only in getting further testing or treatment as appropriate, but also in notifying current and past partners. Online resources make it easier than ever to let partners know about a positive STI diagnosis, often while providing further information about that STI and where to get tested.
Why it matters…
While it can be uncomfortable to contact partners about STI exposure, it is incredibly important. Partner notification is a critical component of reducing the spread of STIs. Bhupendra Sheoran, Executive Director of YTH, says: “Partner notification is a valuable strategy for breaking the chain of STI/STD infection and reducing morbidity. With the Internet becoming a key platform for social networking and hooking-up, using online contact information is a critical method to make sexual partners aware of STD risk. Online partner notification does not replace but instead supplements traditional partner notification strategies and has the potential to make a significant impact in early detection, treatment and prevention of STDs.”
If your patient is interested in notifying partners in person, you could refer them to this resource from The STD Project. Another option is for your patient to disclose their status using an online service.
Here are a few online services we think are worth checking out and potentially worth sharing with your patients.
So They Can Know
So They Can Know is a website created by Sexual Health Innovations to help users alert sexual partners about potential STI exposure. Users have the option to anonymously send an email that will inform the recipient about which STI(s) they may have been exposed to, how that STI is spread, and where they can get tested. For now, it only works with three STIs: chlamydia, gonorrhea, and trichomoniasis. So They Can Know also has tools to support users who prefer to notify their partner(s) directly, such as scripts for how to talk with, call, text, or email someone “so they can know they need to get tested” for an STI. So They Can Know also provides information on STIs, risk assessment, and STI risk reduction, including details on condoms and other safer sex supplies.
inSPOT lets users send e-cards to past and current sexual partners about STI exposure. Users have the option to add a short personal message or send the cards anonymously. They can email up to six partners simultaneously to tell them they should get tested. The user can select the specific STI from a list of twelve STIs or go with a general “get tested” message. Users can also learn more about STIs and find a nearby clinic for STI testing and treatment on the inSPOT website. Plus, inSPOT is available in seven different countries and three languages—English, Spanish, and French.
Don’t Spread It
Don’t Spread It allows users to anonymously email or text a sexual partner with information about the STI they may have been exposed to. Users need to create an account (but don’t have to include any personal or contact information), select one (or more) STIs from a list of thirteen, and enter the recipient’s email or phone number. That person will get an email or text with a link to the Don’t Spread It website, where they can find additional information on the selected STI, common symptoms, and where to find a clinic. The whole process is quick, easy, and incognito.
Healthvana is a patient engagement platform that uses digital tools to help providers better communicate with patients, which then allows patients to better communicate with their partners about STI status. Providers and clinics can integrate Healthvana into their lab and EHR systems, so that patients receive an automatic notification when their lab results are ready (including STI results). Patients can quickly access their results by logging into their account (online or through the Healthvana app), along with educational information about their results, next steps, and any additional testing reminders. Healthvana’s creators hope that by providing quick digital access to STI testing results, users will be able to immediately share test results with a partner.
Love one of these services, or another tool that we haven’t listed here? Let us know in the comments!
Jill Eversole, MPH, works on expanding education and access to birth control at the University of California, San Francisco with the Bixby Center's Beyond the Pill Program. She is passionate about sexual and reproductive health, sexuality education, and contraceptive care. When not talking about all things birth control, you can probably find Jill reading in a cafe, doing yoga, or daydreaming about puppies.