You’ve got to let them know if you’ve picked up an STI
It’s not an easy conversation but it’s important to inform your sexual contacts if you’ve been exposed to an STI, HIV or HCV, writes David Crawford.
Contact tracing is informing a previous sexual or drug using partner(s) that they’ve been in contact with a treatable sexually transmissible or blood borne infection. This is done to reduce the negative outcomes of longer term undiagnosed infection and prevent further transmission of the infection to another person.
If left untreated, STIs and other infections can have negative impacts on your long term health. The presence of an STI can also increase the risk for getting HIV and hepatitis C (HCV). There are effective treatments for all of these infections now, so it makes sense to get these diagnosed and treated early.
When a person knows they’ve been infected, it is highly unlikely they will knowingly pass one of these to their mates or partners. It is people who don’t know they’re infected, who are at the greatest risk for passing on an STI or one of these viruses.
Depending on your diagnosis and your sexual and drug using circumstances, it is important to let your mates, partners, fuck buddies and/or injecting partners know they’ve possibly been exposed to an STI, HIV or HCV. This is about taking care of you, each other and protecting what has been discussed and negotiated. If there was unprotected sex or the sharing or injecting resources, being aware of possible exposure gives them the power to take control. They’ll be able to stop the progress of the infection, particularly for HIV where there are effective treatments.
Telling your mates and partners takes a lot of courage and none of us look forward to having this conversation. For some it is easier than for others. Some of us feel shame, others are fearful of a reaction we can’t handle. It can mean finding the right time and place to have the conversation, and think through the possible questions and answers. This can feel very overwhelming. If this is a struggle and you want to do the right thing by helping your mates or partner, then getting support to do it, can make it easier.
Positive Life along with a number of other community and public health agencies are developing enhanced contact tracing and peer-led services so people newly diagnosed with HIV can tell as many of their contacts and partners safely and confidently about a possible exposure.
We hope to assist people to find the right balance to ensure the people who may have been put at risk know they need to get tested. This process also ensures that while you’re taking care of your mates, you’re also taken care of. Your confidentiality is maintained and you feel informed and supported within the process.
You can also visit the Sexual Health Information Link: www.shil.nsw.gov.au
SHARE YOUR EXPERIENCE
Positive Life NSW is running a partner notification (contact tracing) survey. The survey aims to investigate what partner notification means for people living with HIV (PLHIV) and provides a reflective moment on contact tracing discussions. The survey results will inform resource development and more importantly provide the organisation and their HIV service partners with material to deliver effective partner notification programs. To take part, visit the survey website here