GMFA is asking clinics around the UK to look out for patients referred to them by the pilot for an innovative new online partner notification (PN) service for men who have sex with men.
In response to the problem of the large proportion of undiagnosed HIV infection in the gay community and in the light of the fact that untreated STIs can make people much more likely to pick up and pass on HIV, the Sexual Health Messaging Service was developed in order to increase the options and opportunities for gay and bisexual men diagnosed with an STI or HIV to carry out PN, so that more partners of diagnosed patients will receive notifications and the amount of undiagnosed STIs and HIV infection in the community will be reduced.
The pilot service will enable patients, and clinics who offer provider referrals, to carry out PN via a single website that can deliver messages to members of several gay dating sites, users of mobile cruising apps, personal email addresses and mobile phones (via text message). Where patients are too worried about the reaction of their partners to disclose their identity messages can be sent anonymously, and automatic follow-up messages will be sent to partners who do not appear to have acted on the notification they were sent.
Before the new service was developed, health advisers from seven clinics in different settings, with different levels of demands and resources to meet those demands, were invited to explain their current practise around PN so that the new service could be designed to improve PN outcomes. It is these same clinics (Barts, Brighton, 56 Dean Street, Guys, St Thomas’, Homerton, Manchester Royal Infirmary and Sheffield) who are referring their patients to the service during the six month pilot that launched in April 2011.
All other clinics in the UK are being asked to look out for men attending their service as a result of receiving a message sent to them via the new website. Every message sent from the new website will contain a unique reference number. Recipients of messages will be asked to bring their reference number with them to the clinic they attend. Every clinic will be given access to the website and asked to enter any unique reference numbers they are presented with in order to verify message recipients having attended their clinic.
More detailed instructions about accessing the new website and how to enter reference numbers have been mailed or emailed to clinics across the UK, but if your clinic has not received them, please contact Dónal Heath at email@example.com or call 020 3463 2482.
In October 2011, at the end of the pilot, the aim is to expand the service so that more clinics can refer their patients to the new website or use it themselves for provider referral, and in April 2012 all clinics will be invited to begin using and referring their patients to it.
The new PN service is being project managed by GMFA, the gay men’s health charity, funded by the Elton John AIDS Foundation and developed with the support of the Department of Health, consultant Health Advisers and doctors at SSHA, BASHH and the pilot clinics, as well as the four gay dating websites: Fitlads, Gaydar, Manhunt and Recon. The service will enable users to contact members of additional dating sites, social networking sites and dating apps in due course.
If you have any questions about the new online partner notification service, please email the Project Manager, Dónal Heath, at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 020 7738 6872.