April 23, 2010
The goal of the current study was to assess provider and client acceptance of health department-delivered HIV partner services (PS) in clinical and community settings.
New York City's HIV field services unit was formed in 2006 and staffed with experienced STD intervention specialists (DIS). At eight large hospitals, DIS were assigned to assist clinical providers and their HIV-positive patients with PS in areas with high rates of delayed HIV diagnoses and HIV-related mortality.
The researchers surveyed providers (self-administered questionnaire) and clients (staff-administered) to assess providers', patients', and patients' HIV-exposed partners' acceptance of and concerns regarding PS.
The team reported the following response rates: providers, 63 percent (132/211); patients who had accepted PS, 90 percent (492/544); patients who had declined PS, 73 percent (16/22); partners who received notification, 83 percent (139/168); and partners who had declined notification, 81 percent (25/31).
Most providers found the DIS focus and PS skills were beneficial to providers (87 percent) and clients (89 percent). Ninety-one percent of patients had a positive or neutral attitude about health department-delivered PS. Sixty-nine percent of providers saw no disadvantage to DIS providing PS, although 24 percent raised concerns about potential patient confusion over the roles of providers versus DIS. Twenty percent of patients (50/492) raised concerns about the length and intrusive nature of interviews. Partners wanted to know who had named them (32/139, 23 percent).
"Health department-delivered PS by DIS in clinical and community settings was acceptable to providers, HIV-infected patients and HIV-exposed partners," the authors concluded. "Overall, our survey showed strong provider and client support for this approach."