Partner Services Frequently Asked Questions for Patients Diagnosed with HIV/STD
The following questions are often asked by patients who have been recently diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease (STD), including HIV, and have talked with their health care provider about Partner Services.
I just got a call from someone at the health department. How do I know that this isn't a prank?
New York State has public health regulations and programs in place to help reduce and eliminate the spread of STD/HIV. Partner Services is one of these programs. Department staff are assigned to follow-up on reported cases of Chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis and HIV. In order to do this, staff work with health care providers and may contact patients directly to ensure medical care, testing, and planning for partner notification occurs.
If you are meeting with someone in person, you can ask to see their identification badge. If you are talking on the phone, you can ask to speak with the Partner Services Specialist's supervisor.
Will you tell my partner(s) that I gave their name?
No. Your information is private. We will never tell your partner about you, when you were tested or when they may have been exposed.
If I always use protection (condoms/clean needles or works), why do I need testing?
Using protection (condoms) during vaginal, oral or anal sex is a great way to avoid getting infected; however it is not 100% effective. Sometimes condoms do not fit correctly, are not used correctly or at the right time, or they may break. Also, some STDs can be transmitted during contact between areas not covered by the condom.
Using clean needles and works will prevent transmission of HIV, as well as syphilis and Hepatitis C, but you can still get these diseases if you have sex with people with these diseases. It is also important to not share your clean works with others, to protect their health.
If I ask for help from the Partner Services Program, who from the health department will notify my partner(s)?
A professional Partner Services Specialist will work with you. These caring and dedicated professionals are trained in the areas of STD/HIV and partner notification. They work under strict standards to protect your confidentiality. The Partner Services Specialists are also skilled in how to discretely notify people of their exposure, give information on STDs and HIV, counseling and other topics related to Partner Services.
Can't I just tell my partner(s) myself?
You can tell your partners yourself, but many people find this difficult. Your partner will also need information about the disease and other information about the disease and other information about testing that you may not know.
The Partner Services Specialist can talk with you about how to tell your partners, and can practice these discussions with you. The Partner Services Specialist can also talk about the reasons why you may not want to notify your partner(s) yourself. People sometimes get angry or confused when they are told that they have been exposed to an STD/HIV. Partner Services are trained in how to handle these situations.
How do I know which, if any, of my partner(s) may have been exposed to an STD or HIV?
The Partner Services Specialist will talk with you about the STD/HIV that you were diagnosed with, and when a person is most likely to spread that particular STD/HIV. Based on this, the Partner Services Specialist will focus on identifying any sex or needle-sharing partners that you may have had sex or shared needles with during this time period. These partners are more likely to need to be tested or treated.
What if my partner(s) don't live in my county or in New York?
New York State and New York City's health departments work with other local and state health departments across the US. The Partner Services Specialist can contact the right area to get the notification done. Wherever the partner(s) live, they will not be told any information about you, not even where you live.
I don't want to involve my steady partner in this because I don't want to break up. Do I need to tell (or have someone from Partner Services notify) him or her?
You should think about your partner's health. Telling your steady partner or spouse can be difficult. It is a very hard issue for many people. If your partner is infected, they may find out anyway - either by getting tested, or by getting sick from the infection.
Your steady partner or spouse should be notified to protect their health. Notifying any partners that you still have sex with is very important. Treating your current sex or needle-sharing partners will also help reduce the risk of you getting infected again.
A recent research study found that sex partners of infected persons who received Partner Services were less likely to end the relationship, compared to couples who did not receive Partner Services. Partner Services Specialists are very experienced and can help you think through how to approach your situation.