Frequently Asked Questions for Partners who were Notified of an Exposure

These are commonly asked questions from people who have been contacted by a representative from the New York State Department of Health, New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene or a local health department about Partner Services.

I just got a call from someone at the health department. How do I know that this isn't a prank?

The New York State Department of Health has public health regulations and programs in place to help reduce and eliminate the spread of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and HIV in the community, one of which is Partner Services. State and local health department Partner Services Specialists follow-up on reported cases of STDs including; chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis and HIV.  In order to do this, partner services specialists work with health care providers to plan for partner services.  Staff may contact partners who were notified of an exposure, directly to ensure testing occurs and help them reach medical care for treatment, as necessary.

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.

Who gave you my name? or Who told you to contact me?

Wanting to know who gave your information to the health department may be of importance to you.  It is understandable that you have these questions, however, that information is strictly confidential.  Know that someone cared enough about you and your health to request that you be notified.

Being notified by someone from the health department of an exposure to an infectious disease can be shocking, but notifying partners is important to reduce the spread of infection in the community and to ensure all those who have been exposed are tested and treated for the infection.

In the event that you are diagnosed with an STD or HIV, the same confidential service of notifying your partners will be offered to you

If I always use protection (condoms) for sex, and clean needles/works for injecting drugs, why do I need testing?

Using protection (condoms) during vaginal, anal, or oral sex is a great way to avoid getting infected; however, it is not 100% effective. Sometimes condoms may not fit correctly, are not used correctly or at the right time, or they may break. Also, some sexually transmitted diseases can be transmitted by contact between areas not covered by the condom and through skin to skin contact.

Using clean needles and works, and not sharing works, will prevent transmission of HIV and Hepatitis C, but you can still become infected from sexual contact with those who have HIV or Hepatitis C.

I don't have any signs or symptoms of an infection, so why do I need testing?

It is very common to not have visible signs or symptoms of an infection, but still have one. Most people with infections like chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, HIV, and Hepatitis C have no symptoms, or may not notice any symptoms.  In other cases, the symptoms are very general (like feeling tired or having swollen glands) and don’t point specifically to an STD. The only way to know for sure is to be tested, especially if you’ve been notified of an exposure to an STD or HIV.

I am afraid to get tested - does it hurt?

There are many ways a person can be tested for an STD. Many times, all that is needed is a simple urine sample and physical exam. Other times, blood testing may be necessary, but there are different ways that blood can be taken.

Talk to your health care provider about your testing options for STDs and HIV.

I was exposed to an STD or HIV. Are my sex or needle-sharing partners also at risk?

It is possible that your partners are also at risk for an infection. First, you need to be tested to find out if you are infected. If you do have an STD or HIV, a Partner Services Specialist will talk with you about your sex or needle-sharing partners. This is an important step to preventing the spread of STDs and HIV in the community. If you are concerned that one of your recent sex or needle-sharing partners may also have an STD or HIV, you can talk with a Partner Services Specialist about your concerns or any questions you might have.

What if I'm in a relationship? How will the health department contact my spouse or partner if I do test positive for STDs or HIV? They don't know that I have other sex/needle sharing partners.

A Partner Services Specialist will work with you to develop a plan(s) for notifying your partners and help coach you through possible scenarios of reactions from your partners if they ask questions.
Here are the ways Partner Services Specialists can help notify your partners:

  1. You can tell your partners yourself. A Partner Services Specialist will help you develop a plan and coach you through what to say when you do notify your partners.
  2. You can have a Partner Services Specialist tell your partner without your name being mentioned. With this method, your partners can be contacted by mail, a house visit, email, or other ways that will be discussed with you.
  3. You can work with a Partner Services Specialist to tell your partners together.  This is called a dual notification. A Partner Services Specialist can be there with you so that your partners get the most accurate information and their questions can be answered by a professional right away.