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KENYA:How health workers contact partners of HIV positive people

July 2019 theStar;How will you react if notified that your sexual partner has tested HIV positive, and you also need to be tested?

Apparently, reaching out to partners of people diagnosed with HIV, informing them that they may have been exposed to the virus and they also need to be tested, works well in Kenya.

There is also no violence reported, says a study published in the Journal of the International Aids Society.

The study finds that men flock clinics in higher numbers when informed their female sexual partner has tested positive.

The WHO-approved approach, called Assisted Partner Service, is now touted as key in reaching men and other hard-to-reach people.

It is a voluntary process where trained health workers ask those newly diagnosed with HIV about their sexual partners or drug-injecting partners.

Those partners are then discreetly contacted, and offered HIV testing.

“Following four failed attempts to contact partners by phone, the health advisors physically trace the partners,” says the study,presented at the ongoing IAS HIV Science conference in Mexico. 

The study is a secondary analysis of data of the Assisted Partner Service trial conducted in Kenya in 2015, says Dr Peter Cherutich, an HIV researcher who took part in the study.

The researchers tested the APS in Siaya, Kisumu, Nairobi, Kiambu and Murang’a counties.

They enrolled 1,119 HIV-positive index participants, who named 1286 sexual partners.

The participants were all adults, with the median age being 30 years.

Two approaches were also applied. In the immediate APS, a trained health worker contacted partners of the infected person and offered them HIV counselling and testing.

In delayed APS, the newly-diagnosed participants were encouraged to notify their sexual partners on their own. 

“Immediate notification increased partner HIV testing from a baseline of 13 per cent to 91 per cent in Kisumu and Siaya, and from 16 per cent to 54 per cent in Nairobi, Kiambu and Murang’a,” adds Sarah Masyuko of the National Aids and STIs Control Programme.

New HIV diagnoses increased from 4 per cent to 21 per cent in Central Kenya region and 7 per cent to 29 per cent in Nyanza region.

Nearly all those diagnosed were immediately linked to care, helping reduce transmission. 

More men flocked to clinics for tests after being told their female partners had tested positive.

Further analysis shows partners of HIV positive participants aged less than 30 years, tested more, compared to partners of participants 30 years and older.

There was also a sixfold increase in HIV testing among partners of index participants who were newly diagnosed with HIV compared to a threefold increase in partners of index participants who were already known to be HIV positive.

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