A Qualitative Study of Means to Improve Partner Notification After an HIV Diagnosis Among Men Who Have Sex with Men in Australia

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Abstract

Improved partner notification (PN) after HIV diagnosis could help control HIV among men who have sex with men (MSM). However, there is little evidence exploring what this experience is like for Australian MSM and how achievable it is in the era of the Internet and smartphones. Fifteen of 39 invited MSM recently diagnosed with HIV undertook a semistructured interview about PN. Interviews were thematically analyzed using a combined deductive/inductive approach. Three main themes arose: fear of PN and HIV disclosure, partners' unexpected reactions, and the need for more patient support. MSM found PN difficult and uncomfortable and described fear about potential repercussions of PN; however, they felt it was the right thing to do. Regular partners were more likely to be notified, and in person, because of the availability of contact information but more notably because of a sense of moral responsibility. Men commonly had few contact details for casual partners and preferred PN strategies that allowed them to remain anonymous, largely reflecting the reasons for and ways in which they met casual partners: online or through apps and predominantly for once-off, anonymous sex. Most described unexpected positive responses from partners who were contacted personally by the men. Our study also showed that participants required professional support to carry out PN, especially with casual partners, as well as support around understanding the implications of and treatments relating to being HIV positive. PN could be improved by offering more options that allow the index patient to remain anonymous, particularly when notifying casual partners.

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