Journal of Postgraduate Medicine
 Open access journal indexed with Index Medicus & ISI's SCI  
Users online: 3790  
Home | Subscribe | Feedback | Login 
About Latest Articles Back-Issues Articlesmenu-bullet Search Instructions Online Submission Subscribe Etcetera Contact
 :: Next article
 :: Previous article 
 :: Table of Contents
 ::  Similar in PUBMED
 ::  Search Pubmed for
 ::  Search in Google Scholar for
 ::Related articles
 ::  Article in PDF (232 KB)
 ::  Citation Manager
 ::  Access Statistics
 ::  Reader Comments
 ::  Email Alert *
 ::  Add to My List *
* Registration required (free) 

  IN THIS Article
 ::  Abstract
 ::  Patients and methods
 ::  Results
 ::  Discussion
 ::  Source of funding
 ::  References
 ::  Article Tables

 Article Access Statistics
    PDF Downloaded176    
    Comments [Add]    
    Cited by others 7    

Recommend this journal


Year : 2002  |  Volume : 48  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 105-8

Patient-led partner referral in a district hospital based STD clinic.

District Hospital, Nashik and National AIDS Research Institute, Pune - 411 026, India. , India

Correspondence Address:
V V Sahasrabuddhe
District Hospital, Nashik and National AIDS Research Institute, Pune - 411 026, India.
Login to access the Email id

Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

PMID: 12215690

Rights and PermissionsRights and Permissions

 :: Abstract 

CONTEXT: Sexual communication and appropriate treatment of sexual partners is critical to the success of STD and HIV/AIDS prevention and control. AIMS: To understand factors influencing intention of STD patients to inform their regular sexual partners and identify predictors influencing actual return of the partners. SETTINGS AND DESIGN: A non-randomised survey of patients attending STD clinic in a district hospital between May and November 2000. METHODS AND MATERIAL: 182 patients were administered structured questionnaires to understand their intention to notify their regular sexual partners and encouraged to refer their regular sexual partners to the clinic for management. Factors related to intent to notify partners and actual partner referral were analysed. Statistical analysis used: Chi square test and forward stepwise logistic regression. RESULTS: Of the 182 STD patients 77.47% expressed their positive intention to notify their regular sexual partners. However, overall partner return rate was 40.65%. Patients from a better economic class (p=0.014), those who had sex since having the disease (p=0.001), those who felt it was easy to tell their partners (p=0.047) and perceived the necessity of investigating their partners (p<0.001) were more likely to have an intention to notify their partners. Independent predictors of actual return of sexual partners were patients' perception of partners' susceptibility (p=0.044), positive intention to notify partners (p=0.001), partners already informed before clinic visit (p=0.030) and presence of genital ulcerative diseases (p=0.033). CONCLUSIONS: STD clinic counselling and education should focus on risk reduction, partner susceptibility, role of STDs in HIV transmission and improving spousal communication.

Keywords: Adolescent, Adult, Aged, Analysis of Variance, Chi-Square Distribution, Cohort Studies, Female, Hospitals, District, utilization,Human, India, Interpersonal Relations, Logistic Models, Male, Middle Age, Multivariate Analysis, Outpatient Clinics, Hospital, utilization,Patient Acceptance of Health Care, statistics &numerical data,Primary Prevention, methods,Questionnaires, Risk Assessment, Sexual Partners, Sexually Transmitted Diseases, prevention &control,therapy,Support, Non-U.S. Gov′t, Ur

How to cite this article:
Sahasrabuddhe V V, Gholap T A, Jethava Y S, Joglekar N S, Brahme R G, Gaikwad B A, Wankhede A K, Mehendale S M. Patient-led partner referral in a district hospital based STD clinic. J Postgrad Med 2002;48:105

How to cite this URL:
Sahasrabuddhe V V, Gholap T A, Jethava Y S, Joglekar N S, Brahme R G, Gaikwad B A, Wankhede A K, Mehendale S M. Patient-led partner referral in a district hospital based STD clinic. J Postgrad Med [serial online] 2002 [cited 2023 Mar 22];48:105. Available from:

Notification and referral of sexual partners of patients presenting with a Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) involves tracing the partner/s and advising them about their exposure, assessing risk and helping them to access appropriate treatment and counselling services.[1] Partner notification (contact tracing) has traditionally remained an important tool in the management of STDs because it provides an opportunity for diagnosing asymptomatic cases and checking the spread of infection.[2] Partner notification can be done by the patient himself or herself (patient-led referral), by health-care providers (provider-referral) or through combined efforts of both.

However, a vast majority of patients with STDs in developing countries receive treatment without getting adequate advice on partner notification.[3] Availability of ‘over the counter’ drugs and reasons like inadequacy, undue delays and lack of faith in maintaining confidentiality in government clinics may result in drift of STD patients to private sector and unqualified or unskilled medical practitioners, who may not offer efficient counselling and health educational services along with STD management.[4] This may limit subsequent partner investigation and pose difficulties in effective STD control.

A close association between STDs and prevalent and incident Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV) infection has been reported.[5],[6] Need for appropriate investi-gation and treatment of sexual partners of male STD patients has been reported to be critical to curb the rapidly increasing incidence of HIV among married mono-gamous women.[7],[8] Patient-led partner referral could be considered as an important strategy because it addresses the issues of access to health care and communication on sexual matters in this vulnerable population. It is therefore important to identify the problems in patient-led partner notification and subsequent referral to health care facilities for investigation and management.

The study was aimed at identifying various socio-demographic and behavioural factors that could influence the intention of STD patients to inform their regular partners (spouses) about their disease and assessing the extent of spousal communication as seen by the proportion of partners of STD patients who returned to the clinic for further medical management.

  ::   Patients and methods Top

The study was conducted at the STD outpatient clinic of the State Government-run District Hospital at Nashik between May and November 2000. The Ethical Committee of National AIDS Research Institute approved the study protocol. With a presumption that about 40 percent of STD patients would refer their partners (based on evidence in similar studies elsewhere9, 10, 11) and allowing for a variability of 15%, a sample size of a minimum of 150 was considered to yield 80% power to the study at 5% significance level.

Of the 240 new patients visiting the clinic, we interviewed 182 in the study who had regular sexual partners (defined as “persons who were in steady sexual relationships”) residing in the same city. Since this study was designed to identify factors influencing patient-led regular sexual partner notification and referral, we excluded patients with casual or one-time sexual partners. Informed consent was obtained from all the participants.

A pre-tested structured questionnaire was used to collect information on factors that could possibly influence patients’ willingness and unwillingness to inform their sexual partners about their disease. Participants were administered the questionnaire in their native language and on average the interview lasted for about 25 minutes. After the interview, counselling was given and advice regarding importance of partner communication and referral was provided. Patients were encouraged to bring their regular partners to the clinic for investigations in the next follow-up evaluation visit. From the second day after the study initiation, each STD patient reporting to the clinic was specifically asked whether he/ she referred his/ her partner to the clinic or his/her sexual partner referred him/her to the clinic. Thus linkages between patients and their partners were established. Partners were treated and counselled following procedures similar to the index cases.

Data was analysed using SPSS (version 10.0.5: SPSS. Inc., Chicago, IL) and EpiInfo 2000 (version 1.0, June 2000, CDC, Atlanta, GA). Univariate analysis was done to determine significant associations between socio-demographic, behavioural and psychosocial factors and the “intention” of STD patients to inform their regular partners as well as the “actual return” of regular sexual partners to the STD clinic. Chi square test was employed to assess the significance between associations and variables that were significant in univariate analysis were included in the multivariate model. Stepwise logistic regression method was used to build a multivariate model to assess independent associations between various factors and “intention to notify” as well as “actual partner return”.

  ::   Results Top

Among 182 patients interviewed, a large majority were males (157, 86.3%). The distribution of the study participants according to the syndromic diagnosis is given in [Table - 1]. The outcome variables of interest were the percentage of patients having a positive intention to inform their regular partners, and the rate of actual partner return. The distribution of these outcomes of interest by gender is summarised in the same table. Of the 74 partners who returned, 46 (62.2%) were symptomatic and were treated appropriately.

Socio-demographic and behavioural variables that were observed to be independent predictors of intention to inform and the rates of actual partner referral are summarised in [Table - 2]. The outcome variables were analysed by age and gender, but we did not find any statistically significant difference in various categories.

  ::   Discussion Top

Prevention and control of STDs is considered as an important strategy for prevention of HIV transmission. Effective STD control warrants emphasis on integration of prevention strategies and curative services. Since partner notification and referral and treatment of sexual contacts are crucial for STD control, research needs to address issues related to the barriers and facilitators of effective partner notification and spousal communication.

Ideally contact tracing in case of STD patients should include regular partners (spouses) as well as other partners like casual partners and sex workers. However, in resource-limited settings, individual patients (index cases) often are the only “outreach” mechanisms for contact tracing. It has been shown that individual counselling of STD patients has led to improved partner notification in developing countries.[12] With this background, protection of the regular partners is often the operationally viable option and also an opportunity to restrict the secondary spread of HIV to unsus-pecting partners. Factors that might affect spousal communication and partner referral may vary in different regions and cultures and they must be recognized.

Our study on STD patients attending a district level government hospital-based clinic aimed at identifying factors that could influence and facilitate partner communication and partner return. Patient-led partner referral has been studied in other resource-limited settings including Uganda,[9] Rwanda,[10] the Central African Republic[13] and Haiti,[14] however no documentation of similar studies is found in the Indian scenario characterised by taboo on discussion on sex and sexuality, high rates of migration of adult population for work, multi-partner sex, illiteracy and lack of awareness and risk perception.

The rate of partner referral in our study was 40.65 % and this was found to be comparable to findings in other studies in developing countries.

Various theories of behavioural change in STD patients have been used to describe changes in behaviours in STD patients, including the Theory of Reasoned Action[15] and the Health Belief Model.[16] We have used broad constructs of these models (intention of performing desired action, desired behavioural change, sociodemographic determinants) to predict the factors influencing the decision of the index patients to inform their regular partners and refer them for evaluation and treatment.

Independent predictors or factors identified by us may provide clues to the physicians and counsellors about the prototype of patients who might have “intention to inform regular partner” and who might “actually refer their partners” and this might help them to direct counselling strategies in a focused direction. Overall it appeared that persons who displayed a positive intention to inform were also positively inclined to refer their partners. These patients also seemed to be more “health conscious” and “concerned” about the health of their partners. Furthermore, they recognized the risk they posed to their spouses and were ready to inform their spouses and get them investigated. Focusing efforts on such patients may result in definitive success in partner notification and referral.

Our study has some limitations that might affect the generalisation of our data. We restricted the scope of assessment of communication with sexual partners as reflected in patient-led partner notification and referral to spouse or other regular partner/s only. Further research needs to be done to identify differences and variations in factors affecting communication with non-regular partners. It is also essential to collect data on contacts or partners of STD patients and determine contact and epidemiological indices by doing more systematic studies in India.

It has been stated that behavioural prevention is today’s AIDS Vaccine.[17] Appropriate person-specific messages on partner notification and partner referral based on experiences gained from such studies can be used during counselling and patient care. Efforts in prevention of secondary transmission of STDs would provide a significant contribution in prevention of HIV transmission in the long run. In absence of any legislation regarding provider-led partner referral, research on efficiency and cost-effectiveness of patient-led partner notification needs to be done to decide whether scaling up such activities would be useful, particularly in settings of limited resources and over-burdened health infrastructure.

  ::   Source of funding Top

Intramural funds from Indian Council of Medical Research.

 :: References Top

1.Mathews C, Coetzee N, Zwarenstein M, Lombard C, Guttmacher S, Oxman A, et al. A systematic review of strategies for partner notification for sexually transmitted diseases including HIV/AIDS. Int J STD AIDS 2002;13:285-300.  Back to cited text no. 1    
2.Rothenberg RB, Sterk C, Toomey KE, Potterat JJ, Johnson D, Schrader M, et al. Using social network and ethnographic tools to evaluate syphilis transmission. Sex Transm Dis 1998;25:154-60.  Back to cited text no. 2    
3.Roy V, Bhargava P, Bapna JS, Reddy BS. Treatment seeking behaviour in sexually transmitted diseases. Indian J Public Health 1998;42:133-5.  Back to cited text no. 3    
4.Moses S. Sexually transmitted diseases care services in developing countries: improving quality and access. Sex Transm Dis 2000;27:465-7.  Back to cited text no. 4    
5.Grosskurth H, Mosha F, Todd J, Mwijarubi E, Klokke A, Senkoro K, et al. Impact of improved treatment of sexually transmitted diseases on HIV infection in rural Tanzania: randomised controlled trial. Lancet 1995;346:530-6.  Back to cited text no. 5    
6.Mehendale SM, Shepherd ME, Divekar AD, Gangakhedkar RR, Kamble SS, Menon PA, et al. Evidence for high prevalence and rapid transmission of HIV among individuals attending STD clinics in Pune, India. Ind J Med Res. 1996;104:327-35.  Back to cited text no. 6    
7.Gangakhedkar RR, Bentley ME, Divekar AD, Gadkari DA, Mehendale SM, Shepherd ME, et al. Rapid spread of HIV infection among married monogamous women attending STD Clinics in India. JAMA 1997; 278:2090-2.  Back to cited text no. 7    
8.Newmann S, Sarin P, Kumarasamy N, Amalraj E, Rogers M, Madhivanan P, et al. Marriage, monogamy and HIV: a profile of HIV-infected women in south India. Int J STD AIDS 2000;11:250-3.  Back to cited text no. 8    
9.Nuwaha F, Kambugu F, Nsubuga PS. Factors influencing sexual partner referral for sexually transmitted diseases in Uganda. Sex Transm Dis 1999; 26:483-9.  Back to cited text no. 9    
10.Steen R, Soliman C, Bucyana S, Dallabetta G. Partner referral as a component of integrated sexually transmitted disease services in two Rwandan towns. Genitourin Med 1996;72:56-9.  Back to cited text no. 10    
11.Kohl K, Farley T, Ewell J, Scioneaux J. Usefulness of partner notification for syphilis control. Sex Transm Dis 1999;26:201-7.  Back to cited text no. 11    
12.Faxelid E, Tembo G, Ndulo J, Krantz I. Individual counseling of patients with sexually transmitted diseases. A way to improve partner notification in a Zambian setting? Sex Transm Dis 1996;23:289-92.  Back to cited text no. 12    
13.Koumans EH, Barker K, Massanga M, Hawkins RV, Somse P, Parker KA, et al. Patient-led partner referral enhances sexually transmitted disease service delivery in two towns in the Central African Republic. Int J STD AIDS 1999;10:376-82.  Back to cited text no. 13    
14.Desormeaux J, Behets FM, Adrien M, Coicou G, Dallabetta G, Cohen M, et al. Introduction of partner referral and treatment for control of sexually transmitted diseases in a poor Haitian community. Int J STD AIDS 1996;7:502-6.  Back to cited text no. 14    
15.Baker SA, Morrison DM, Carter WB, Verdon MS. Using the theory of reasoned action (TRA) to understand the decision to use condoms in an STD clinic population. Health Educ Q 1996;23:528-42.  Back to cited text no. 15    
16.VanLandingham MJ, Suprasert S, Grandjean N, Sittitrai W. Two views of risky sexual practices among northern Thai males: the Health Belief Model and the Theory of Reasoned Action. J Health Soc Behav 1995; 36:195-212.  Back to cited text no. 16    
17.Pequegnat Willo, Stover Ellen. Behavioural prevention is today’s AIDS Vaccine! AIDS 2000;14:S1-7.  Back to cited text no. 17    


[Table - 1], [Table - 2]

This article has been cited by
1 Partner notification for sexually transmitted infections in developing countries: A systematic review
Alam, N., Chamot, E., Vermund, S.H., Streatfield, K., Kristensen, S.
BMC Public Health. 2010; 10(art no 19)
2 Examining sex differentials in the uptake and process of HIV testing in three high prevalence districts of India
Joseph, S., Kielmann, K., Kudale, A., Sheikh, K., Shinde, S., Porter, J., Rangan, S.
AIDS Care - Psychological and Socio-Medical Aspects of AIDS/HIV. 2010; 22(3): 286-295
3 Cost of treatment: The single biggest obstacle to HIV/AIDS treatment adherence in lower-middle class patients in Mumbai, India
Naik, E., Casanas, B., Pazare, A., Wabale, G., Sinnott, J., Salihu, H.
Indian Journal of Sexually Transmitted Diseases. 2009; 30(1): 23-27
4 Partner notification for sexually transmitted diseases
Hogben M
5 Patient-led partner notification for syphilis: Strategies used by women accessing antenatal care in urban Bolivia
Klisch, S.A., Mamary, E., Diaz Olavarrieta, C., Garcia, S.G.
Social Science and Medicine. 2007; 65(6): 1124-1135
6 Prevalence and awareness about sexually transmitted infections among males in urban slums of Delhi
Garg, S., Singh, M.M., Nath, A., Bhalla, P., Garg, V., Gupta, V.K., Uppal, Y.
Indian Journal of Medical Sciences. 2007; 61(5): 269-277
7 HIV/AIDS epidemic in India: risk factors, risk behaviour & strategiesfor prevention & control
Godbole S, Mehendale S
Indian J Med Res. 2005; 121(4): 356-368


Print this article  Email this article
Previous article Next article
Online since 12th February '04
© 2004 - Journal of Postgraduate Medicine
Official Publication of the Staff Society of the Seth GS Medical College and KEM Hospital, Mumbai, India
Published by Wolters Kluwer - Medknow