DIS and Partner Services

Who are DIS?

Disease Intervention Specialists (DIS) are non-licensed public health professionals who take on many roles to protect people across the nation. Whether tackling STD prevention, tuberculosis outbreak response, HIV exposure notification, or emergency response – DIS bring a special set of skills and level of dedication matched by few in the field.

DIS skills include expertise in case analysis, education and counseling, linkage to care, provider and community engagement, and, critically, contact tracing and partner services.

What are ‘partner services’ and ‘contact tracing’?

‘Partner services’ are offered to people with STDs, to their partners, and to other people who are at increased risk for infection in an effort to prevent transmission of these diseases and to reduce suffering from their complications. The historical focus was to identify and locate the sexual contacts of infected people and other people at risk for behavioral or other factors – ‘contact tracing’ – and then refer them for care and treatment, as appropriate.

The basic partner services process – interviewing people with STDs and others potentially involved in transmission, identifying people still at risk (whether through direct exposure or indirect involvement), and bringing the latter to diagnosis and treatment – has evolved to include a broad view of the clinical and epidemiologic activities needed to help people with STDs.

However, the partner services and contact tracing approach and skillset extends beyond STD prevention. DIS are a public health resource uniquely poised to strengthen the nation’s emergency preparedness and response capabilities for emerging public health issues. DIS have contributed to multiple outbreak investigations in the U.S. and abroad, including anthrax, TB, HIV, flu, measles, food-borne illnesses, Zika and even Ebola, and have provided emergency response support after natural disasters (e.g. Hurricanes Hugo, Katrina and Michael). As the health care landscape evolves, well-trained DIS are needed even more as patient navigators and network builders to ensure appropriate follow-up of patients.

DIS Resources
COVID-19 Resources for Contact Tracing