Partner Services Frequently Asked Questions for Patients Diagnosed with HIV/STI

The following questions are often asked by patients who have been recently diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease (STI), 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?

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 (STIs) and HIV in the community, one of which is Partner Services. Health department Partner Services staff follow-up on reportable cases of STIs such as; chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, mpox and HIV.

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.

What is Partner Services? What does it do?

Partner Services is a program that helps reduce the spread of STIs in your community.  Specially trained staff (called Partner Services Specialists) contact people who have been diagnosed with an STI.  The specialist will talk with a patient to:

  • Check that they have been treated for the STI,
  • Connect them with testing for other STIs, including HIV, and
  • Help them decide how to tell their partners that they may have an STI.

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.

The Partner Services Specialist will work with you to come up with a plan to best tell your partners.

It is understandable that they may ask that question; however, that information is strictly confidential and cannot be provided.  Wanting to know who gave their information to the health department may be of importance to them. They will be advised that someone cared enough about them and their health to ask that they be notified.

In the event that they should test positive for an STI or HIV, the same confidential service of notifying their partners will be offered to them.

If I always use protection (condoms/not sharing needles or works), why do I need testing?

Using protection (condoms) during vaginal, anal, or oral sex is a great way to avoid acquiring an STI/HIV; 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 STIs, like herpes, genital warts, mpox, and syphilis, can be passed by skin-to-skin contact, including skin that isn’t covered by a condom.

Not sharing needles and works, will prevent transmission of HIV and Hepatitis C, but you can still acquire HIV/Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) from sexual contact with those who have HIV or HCV.

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 to notify all of your partners. These caring and dedicated professionals are trained in the areas of STI/HIV and partner notification. They work under strict standards to protect your confidentiality.

The Partner Services Specialists are also skilled at discretely notifying people of their exposure, teaching people about STIs and HIV, and other topics related to Partner Services. They also make referrals for needed testing and treatments for all partners.  All of this is done while never revealing who provided their information.

Can't I just tell my partner(s) myself?

Yes, you can tell your partners yourself, but many people find this difficult. Your partner will also need information about the infection and other information about testing and treatment that you may not know.

The Partner Services Specialist can talk with you about how to tell your partners and will 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 STI/HIV. Partner Services are trained in how to handle these situations.

Are my sex or needle sharing partner(s) at risk?

A Partner Services Specialist will talk with you about the infection(s) you were diagnosed with, and when a person is most likely to spread the infection(s). Based on this, the Partner Services Specialist will focus on identifying sex or needle-sharing partners.  It is important to work with the Partner Services Specialist to ensure all partners who may have been exposed have the opportunity to be notified, test, and 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 United States. The Partner Services Specialist can contact the right region or state to get the notification done. Wherever a partner lives, 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?

Telling your steady partner or spouse can be difficult. It can be a very hard and complicated issue to talk about for many people. If your partner acquired an STI/HIV, they may find out anyway - either by getting tested, or by getting sick from their infection.

Your steady partner or spouse should be notified to protect their health. Notifying any partners that you still have sex or share needles 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 persons with an STI/HIV who received Partner Services were less likely to end the relationship, compared to couples who did not receive Partner Services. Partner Services Specialists are experienced professionals and can help you think through how to approach your situation.