Adolescents and young adults in the United States (U.S.) continue to become infected with HIV at alarmingly high rates. Partner notification, a type of voluntary and anonymous contact tracing supported by the Centers for Disease Control and prevention, has been a central component of sexually transmitted disease control programs for decades. Previous studies among adolescents and young adults in the U.S. have investigated partner notification for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in general but not specifically for HIV. Ultimately, identifying factors associated with partner notification among youth living with HIV is critical for effective HIV prevention and treatment strategies.
[Photo: Dr. Jacob J. van den Berg]
This study, conducted by lead author Dr. Jacob J. van den Berg, assistant professor of behavioral and social sciences at the Brown University School of Public Health, sought to examine the history of partner notification among youth behaviorally infected with HIV receiving treatment and care at Adolescent Medicine clinics throughout the U.S. A total of 924 male and female behaviorally infected youth aged 13 – 24 across 14 U.S. cities completed an audio computer-assisted self-interview including questions about demographics and experiences with patient- and provider-referral partner notification.
The majority of participants self-identified as male (82.5 percent), Black/non-Hispanic (70.1 percent), and Hispanic/Latino (18.2 percent). Most males (93.4 percent) reported engaging in male-to-male sexual contact. Over three-quarters (77.6 percent) reported that all or some of their partners were contacted, while 22.4 percent indicated that none were contacted regarding potential HIV exposure. Most (52.4 percent) reported that only one person talked to them about notifying partners including the HIV tester (36.5 percent) followed by their health care provider/doctor (27.6 percent). Less than a fifth (18.3 percent) were themselves notified of their own exposure to HIV. Using multivariable logistic regression, three factors were associated with successful partner notification: (1) when more than one person talked to participants about partner notification (AOR = 1.87, 1.33-2.62); (2) if they themselves had been notified of their own HIV exposure (AOR = 1.83, 1.13-2.95); and (3) if their education included some college or technical school versus less than high school (AOR = 1.72, 1.04-2.85).
Partner notification among youth living with HIV is unsuccessful at least 22.4 percent of the time, although minimal criteria for partner services are being met almost universally. Partner notification might benefit from enhanced guidelines that call for both HIV testers and HIV care providers to discuss this important strategy with HIV-positive youth.
This article was published in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes