Digital interventions for STI and HIV partner notification : a scoping review

Woodward, Charlotte and Bloch, Sonja and McInnes-Dean, Amelia and Lloyd, Karen C and McLeod, Julie and Saunders, John and Flowers, Paul and Estcourt, Claudia S and Gibbs, Jo (2024) Digital interventions for STI and HIV partner notification : a scoping review. Sexually Transmitted Infections. ISSN 1368-4973 (https://doi.org/10.1136/sextrans-2023-056097)

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Abstract

Background: Partner notification (PN) is key to the control of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Digital interventions have been used to facilitate PN. A scoping review was conducted to describe the interventions used, user preferences and acceptability of digital PN interventions from patient and partner perspectives. Methods: A systematic literature search was conducted of eight databases for articles published in English, available online with digital PN outcome data. Articles were assessed using the Mixed Methods Appraisal Tool. Quantitative and qualitative data were synthesised and analysed using thematic analysis. Results: Twenty-six articles met the eligibility criteria. Articles were heterogeneous in quality and design, with the majority using quantitative methods. Nine articles focused solely on bacterial STIs (five on syphilis; four on chlamydia), one on HIV, two on syphilis and HIV, and 14 included multiple STIs, of which 13 included HIV. There has been a shift over time from digital PN interventions solely focusing on notifying partners, to interventions including elements of partner management, such as facilitation of partner testing and treatment, or sharing of STI test results (between index patients and tested sex partners). Main outcomes measured were number of partners notified (13 articles), partner testing/consultation (eight articles) and treatment (five articles). Relationship type and STI type appeared to affect digital PN preferences for index patients with digital methods preferred for casual rather than established partner types. Generally, partners preferred face-to-face PN. Conclusion: Digital PN to date mainly focuses on notifying partners rather than comprehensive partner management. Despite an overall preference for face-to-face PN with partners, digital PN could play a useful role in improving outcomes for certain partner types and infections. Further research needs to understand the impact of digital PN interventions on specific PN outcomes, their effectiveness for different infections and include health economic evaluations.