Partner referral is the most common method of attempting to control STD spread and recurrence. Health care providers ask STD-infected patients to contact their sexual partners, inform them of their risk for infection, and encourage them to seek medical care. A second method, booklet-enhanced partner referral, also provides the patients with booklets that have referral tear-out cards for distribution to sex partners. The new method, known as patient-delivered partner treatment, gives the patient an antibiotic to offer to his partner.
To compare the efficacy of patient-delivered partner treatment with standard and booklet-enhanced partner referral, the researchers enrolled 977 men from an STD clinic in New Orleans. The men had all had a diagnosis of urethritis due to chlamydia and/or gonorrhea infection, and most reported two or more sex partners. The men were each randomly assigned to one of the three partner treatment arms. Nearly 80 percent of the patients completed a follow-up interview four weeks later, and 38 percent were re-tested for STDs.
The researchers found that about 70 percent of men in the patient-delivered partner treatment arm gave the intervention to their partners (giving antibiotics), compared with 58 percent of men in the booklet-enhanced arm (giving tear-out referral cards), and 48 percent of men in the standard p