Telling your partner you have a sexually transmitted infection (STI) is likely to be an uncomfortable experience. But partner notification helps ensure your partner or partners get tested and treated so that they do not pass the infection to others or back to you.

In a January 19, 2007 BMJ Online First article, researchers reviewed studies that looked at ways to improve the effectiveness of partner notifications. They found that STI patients armed with medications or additional information for their partners were less likely to have an ongoing or recurrent STI than patients who simply notified their partners about their exposure to an STI.

About the Study

The researchers analyzed data from 14 randomized trials, which included 12,389 men and women with a variety of treatable STIs including ]]>gonorrhea]]> and ]]>chlamydia]]> . The trials compared the effectiveness of simple patient referrals (patients telling their partner(s) that they have been exposed to an STI) to supplemented patient referrals. Patient referrals were supplemented with 1) patient-delivered partner therapy, where the patient was given drugs or a prescription for their partner; 2) chlamydia sampling kits given to the patient for their partner; 3) and additional STI information given to the patient for their partner. The researchers measured effectiveness as a reduction in the number of ongoing or recurrent sexually transmitted infections in the original patients.

Five of six trials found patient-delivered partner therapy was modestly more effective than patient referral alone at reducing ongoing and recurrent STIs in the original patients. Supplementing patient referrals with additional information for partners was as effective as patient-delivered partner therapy. Finally, trials that provided chlamydia patients with home sampling kits for their partners resulted in an increase in the number of partners who got treated.

All of the studies included in this analysis had methodological weaknesses that could have biased their results, according to the authors of this review.

How Does This Affect You?

This analysis found that patient referrals supplemented with patient-delivered partner therapy or additional information for partners were more effective than patient referrals alone in reducing ongoing and recurrent STI infections in the original patients.

Tell your sexual partner or partners if you have a sexually transmitted infection. Doing so will allow them to get tested and treated before they unwittingly pass the infection to someone else or back to you.

Talk to your physician about how to broach the topic with your partner. And request some written information about the STI and its testing and treatment for your partner. A little knowledge can go a long way in treating and preventing STIs.