Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Telling partners about chlamydia: how acceptable are the new technologies?

Carol A Hopkins12, Meredith J Temple-Smith3, Christopher K Fairley12, Natasha L Pavlin3, Jane E Tomnay4, Rhian M Parker5, Frank J Bowden6, Darren B Russell7, Jane S Hocking8 and Marcus Y Chen12*

Author Affiliations

1 Melbourne School of Population Health, The University of Melbourne, Carlton, Victoria, Australia

2 Melbourne Sexual Health Centre, 580 Swanston Street, Carlton, Victoria, Australia

3 Melbourne Graduate School of Education, Old Geology Building, The University of Melbourne, Carlton, Victoria, Australia

4 Centre of Excellence in Rural Sexual Health, School of Rural Health, The University of Melbourne, 49 Graham Street, Shepparton, Victoria, Australia

5 Australian Primary Health Care Research Institute, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT, Australia

6 Australian National University and Canberra Sexual Health Centre, Garran, ACT, Australia

7 Cairns Sexual Health Service, Cairns Base Hospital, Cairns, Queensland, Australia

8 Key Centre for Women's Health in Society, The University of Melbourne, Carlton, Victoria, Australia

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BMC Infectious Diseases 2010, 10:58  doi:10.1186/1471-2334-10-58

Published: 9 March 2010



Partner notification is accepted as a vital component in the control of chlamydia. However, in reality, many sexual partners of individuals diagnosed with chlamydia are never informed of their risk. The newer technologies of email and SMS have been used as a means of improving partner notification rates. This study explored the use and acceptability of different partner notification methods to help inform the development of strategies and resources to increase the number of partners notified.


Semi-structured telephone interviews were conducted with 40 people who were recently diagnosed with chlamydia from three sexual health centres and two general practices across three Australian jurisdictions.


Most participants chose to contact their partners either in person (56%) or by phone (44%). Only 17% chose email or SMS. Participants viewed face-to-face as the "gold standard" in partner notification because it demonstrated caring, respect and courage. Telephone contact, while considered insensitive by some, was often valued because it was quick, convenient and less confronting. Email was often seen as less personal while SMS was generally considered the least acceptable method for telling partners. There was also concern that emails and SMS could be misunderstood, not taken seriously or shown to others. Despite these, email and SMS were seen to be appropriate and useful in some circumstances. Letters, both from the patients or from their doctor, were viewed more favourably but were seldom used.


These findings suggest that many people diagnosed with chlamydia are reluctant to use the new technologies for partner notification, except in specific circumstances, and our efforts in developing partner notification resources may best be focused on giving patients the skills and confidence for personal interaction.