Infection tracing, notifying partners of one’s own sexually transmitted disease infection, is an important part of the prevention of sexually transmitted infections. It is important to report your own STI infection to your partner, as all STIs can be asymptomatic, and the person does not otherwise know that they have been exposed to the STI or may have an STI unknowingly.
Infection tracing is prescribed in the Finnish infectious diseases legislation:
The doctor who detects the disease is primarily responsible for examining and treating a patient with a generally hazardous or controlled infectious disease and possibly other infected persons. If he or she cannot do this himself/herself, he/she must transfer the task to the doctor responsible for infectious diseases in the municipality or joint municipal authority of the hospital district.
A person who has contracted a generally hazardous or controlled communicable disease and who is reasonably suspected of having contracted it shall inform the investigating physician of his or her understanding of the method, time and place of transmission and of the names of the persons who may have been the source of the infection or have been infected.
To inform potentially exposed partners
It is recommended that the person himself informs his partners of the infection and urges them to get tested. If a person does not reach his partners or does not want to communicate with them himself, the task remains with the attending physician. The personal data of the infected person should not be disclosed. With current reporting methods, infection tracing reaches approximately 40–60% of partners.
Partners will primarily be referred for examinations at their own health centre and will be advised to report that this is an infection tracing. A permanent sexual partner can often be treated to prevent re-infection at the same time as an infected person. For temporary partners, the results of the tests are expected, and if the tests reveal an STI, treatment is started.
Periods to be mapped backwards by disease
It is a good idea to define the time of infection as precisely as possible. All STIs can be asymptomatic, so determining the period to be reported can be challenging. If a person has had symptoms that indicate a STI are detected by a health care professional, then the period to be reported can be examined according to the time of onset of symptoms.
The period for which sexual partners should be reported depends on the disease diagnosed and when the person last underwent STI tests. If the client has been tested for sexually transmitted infections and the test results were negative, then the partners must be notified at most until that time. Even in this situation, the incubation periods of the disease should be taken into account:
- Chlamydia and gonorrhea for 5 days
- Syphilis 3-6 weeks
- HIV 3-12 weeks
If it has been a very long time since you have been tested for sexually transmitted diseases or if you have not been tested before, the table below shows general instructions on how long it would be good to inform the partners:
|Chlamydia||6 months or to the latest negative chlamydia test result||Duration of symptoms + 4 weeks|
|Gonorrhea||6 months or to the latest negative gonorrhea test result||Duration of symptoms + 2 weeks|
|Syphilis||2 years or to the latest negative syphilis test result||Duration of symptoms + 2 months|
|HIV||From the present to the probable moment of infection or the latest negative HIV test result||From the present to the probable moment of infection or the latest negative HIV test result|