Technology and the ways people use it to communicate, learn, and interact with one another are constantly changing. When we first began to see the impact of online sex-seeking on STD and HIV transmission, chat rooms were the main online venue. During those days, desktop computers and dial-up internet service acted as natural constraints to instant access to online sexual and social networking. Today, constant lightning-speed access to the internet through tablets, laptops, and smartphones allows users to find and meet a willing sex partner in a matter of minutes with just the swipe of a finger. As each generation of equipment evolves for consumer use, we will continue to see cheaper smartphones, better mobile technology, and even faster internet access, as well as changes in the way people use them as part of day-to-day living.
Internet partner services provide a unique set of tools that can facilitate the contact of potentially infected individuals. When done well, IPS can increase the number of partners who are notified and screened or tested, identify new positive STI/HIV cases, and improve operational efficiencies. It also helps to reach individuals who may otherwise be unreachable through traditional PS.
By the time this document is distributed, some of the information contained within will be dated or obsolete as the world of technology rapidly changes. Some of the information may become irrelevant, and new and emerging trends and technology may be missing. We encourage programs to learn about this constantly changing landscape and to think of how their programs can adapt to and incorporate these technological changes into their PS activities.
To ensure that partner notification is effective in its mission to reduce STD and HIV transmission, public health programs are encouraged to employ new technologies as they are adopted by the general public. This may require new trainings for staff, use of surveys or interviews to assess markets and communities, pilot testing of new strategies, and other programmatic changes. It may require state and local public health entities and businesses to revise or develop new social policies, and it will certainly lead to more collaboration between online businesses, researchers, program planners, community members, and other stakeholders. Integrating documentation, program evaluation, process measures, outcome measures, and other forms of data collection and program review specific to IPS remains critical to the long-term success of PS.
Both the Division of STD Prevention and the Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention at the CDC encourage use of technology for STD/HIV prevention, including IPS.
This toolkit has attempted to address concerns and provide suggestions on areas such as cultural competency, confidentiality, staffing, training, and supervision. It sets the foundation for effective and productive IPS as a part of an overall strategy to reduce STD rates and improve health outcomes.