Partner Notification After STD and HIV Exposures and Infections: Knowledge, Attitudes, and Experiences of Massachusetts Men Who Have Sex with Men

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SYNOPSISObjectives.We assessed Boston-area men who have sex with men (MSM) in terms of their knowledge of partner notification (PN)/partner counseling and referral services (PCRS) and intentions to use such services if exposed to/ infected with a sexually transmitted disease (STD) or human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in the future.Methods.The study used a convenience sample of STD clinic patients (n=48) and a modified respondent-driven sampling method (n=70) to reach a diverse sample of MSM (total sample n=118) in Massachusetts. Participants completed a one-on-one, open-ended, semistructured qualitative interview and quantitative survey.Results.Overall, white, HIV-infected MSM had the highest level of knowledge about PN activities. MSM who were unfamiliar with PN were disproportionately nonwhite and HIV-uninfected. Participants were more likely to notify past partners of HIV exposure than STD exposure. The preferred method of PN for the majority of MSM was direct person-to-person notification. Notably, nonwhite participants were more likely to endorse Massachusetts Department of Public Health PN services than white MSM, who preferred involvement of primary care providers.Conclusions.PN is an important public health strategy for treating and preventing STDs and HIV among at-risk populations, especially MSM who engage in sexual behavior with anonymous or otherwise non-notifiable sexual partners. Although many MSM had an understanding of the ethical desirability of informing exposed partners and recognized the value of preventative behaviors, they require further education to overcome barriers to PN as well as to gain knowledge of the various methods of both traditional and nontraditional notification, such as Internet PN.

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