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Breaking the HIV chain in families through partner notification

Author:admin   Time:2017-1-23 10:22:55

19 December 2016 – Ahead of World AIDS Day, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended assistance for people with HIV to notify their partners. The sexual and drug-injecting partners of people diagnosed with HIV have an increased probability of being HIV-positive. Assisted HIV partner notification services are a simple and effective way to reach these partners, many of whom are undiagnosed and unaware.

Charles and his wife in a counselling session with the health adviser.
Charles and his wife in a counselling session with the health adviser
Cameroon Baptist Convention Health Services

Studies have found that assisted partner notification services (provider or contract referral) increase the uptake of HIV testing services among partners of HIV-positive individuals. This can result in a high percentage of HIV-positive people being diagnosed, and can also increase linkage to care and treatment for HIV-positive individuals.

Charles* is 38 years old and lives in Cameroon. In 2012, after being diagnosed with HIV, he was linked to a health adviser who discussed the importance of informing his sexual partners of his HIV status.

Charles said, “My worry during post-test counselling was how to inform my new wife about my HIV status. I was linked to a health adviser at the partner notification unit and received psychosocial support that helped me tell my wife about my HIV status.”

“In the early days, it was still very difficult for me to tell my wife about my HIV status because I was afraid she would divorce me and tell other family members that I am living with HIV.”

The health adviser continued to work with Charles and provided 3 options for partner notification: let the health adviser do the notification (“provider referral”); do the notification himself (“passive referral”); or do the notification together with the health adviser (“dual referral”).

“I told the health adviser to do the notification. My wife and my 2 sex partners were notified of their exposure to HIV and were advised to test for HIV. At first, my wife was aggressive towards the health adviser and asked many questions, but the health adviser encouraged her to do the HIV test. Finally, my wife tested for HIV and her test result was positive. One of my sex partners also tested HIV-positive. The health adviser invited my wife and me to her office and helped us exchange our results, and that is how we learned each other’s HIV status. She helped us to accept our status, and encouraged us to live positively and build our home. The health adviser linked us to the care and treatment unit for continuity of care.”

“Today, we are a very happy family, with a 2-year-old child who tested HIV-negative. I have made up my mind to be faithful to my wife so we can build a healthy family. I am so grateful to this programme because it gave me hope when I was hopeless.”

The health adviser continues to support Charles and his family through the programme implemented by the Cameroon Baptist Convention Health Services.

As seen from Charles's experience, trained providers play a vital role in the delivery of quality partner notification services. They offer non-judgmental support in facilitating mutual disclosure for couples, and effectively locate partners to offer them the opportunity to test for HIV. Providers also record outcomes such as partner notification attempts, partner HIV test uptake, test results and linkage to care.

Many countries are already recommending partner notification services as part of their HIV testing services. Action is needed to implement assisted partner notification policies based on the WHO recommendations and make these services available to people in need. That way, families and people like Charles can get the help they need.