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HIV Contact Tracing - Client Responsibilities

This fact sheet contains information on confidentiality and legal obligations for people who have been recently diagnosed with HIV.

Information

Contact tracing is the process of identifying people who have been in contact with someone who has an infectious disease and advising these people what they need to do in terms of their own health and preventing further spread.

Queensland Health has a mandate to protect the public's health. This means that, among other things, it acts to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. Infectious diseases are those spread from person-to-person, and include measles, whooping cough, food poisoning, viral hepatitis and sexually transmissible infections (STIs) including HIV.

What is a notifiable disease?

To control the spread of infectious diseases, many diseases are notifiable according to Queensland law. This means that the doctor or laboratory making the diagnosis is obliged to notify Queensland Health so that records can be compiled on the spread and extent of the disease and if necessary, action may be taken to prevent further spread. These same laws ensure that the information received via this process is kept strictly confidential.

How can the spread of disease be prevented?

Different diseases are spread in different ways and therefore require different measures to control them. However, all control measures rely on identifying both the source of the infection and the people who may have been exposed to it. Identifying the contacts of a person known to be infected with a disease is known as contact tracing. Once the contacts are found, they can be given appropriate advice, and if necessary, tested and given preventive medicines or a vaccination.

What about HIV?

HIV and some other infections that can be spread through having sex also require contact tracing. If a contact is found to be HIV positive, they can be advised of their treatment options, and how to avoid spreading the infection to other people.

Your legal obligations

If you are HIV positive, you have a legal obligation to avoid putting other people at risk of being infected. This means that you should practise safe sex, and consider informing your sexual partners of your HIV status.

If you are newly diagnosed, as part of the contact tracing process you will be requested to provide details of the people from whom you may have caught the infection, and anyone to whom you may have passed it on. This is so they can be contacted, tested for HIV and given appropriate treatment counselling and help.

How is HIV contact tracing done?

Once you have provided details of your contacts, your health practitioner should discuss with you the best way to find them and inform them of the risk. You may choose to tell them yourself, or your health practitioner could discreetly contact them without identifying you in any way. The purpose of contact tracing is to ensure newly infected people are provided with the maximum assistance as soon as possible and they in turn are able to prevent others being infected.