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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update

FLORIDA: Sex Detectives Search for Disease Carriers


Daytona Beach News-Journal (11.03.12)

The five disease intervention specialists (DIS) at Volusia County Health Department follow up after individuals have been infected with syphilis, chlamydia, gonorrhea, or HIV and find their sex partners. This is done in strict confidentiality. Sometimes, it requires knocking on doors of unsuspecting partners to deliver the bad news. Patrick Forand, program manager for Volusia County Health Department’s HIV and AIDS program, stated that the DIS have to use every means necessary to locate these individuals to stop the spread of the disease. He lists persistence, good investigative skills, and the ability to listen without passing judgment as desired traits of the DIS. The DIS aim to be discreet and always try to break the news in a private setting, such as a client’s home. They search Facebook, Craigslist, and other Internet sites for clues and at times have been treated with violence, especially when clients suspect a spouse may have been unfaithful. One intervention specialist reports having been chased by dogs and called everything in 30 years on the job. The job takes the DIS to every corner of the county, from poor prostitute-ridden neighborhoods to the county’s most exclusive neighborhoods. The goal of the DIS is to get the client help, regardless of age, race, background, or where they live. In addition to conducting investigations, DIS educate the public about STDs and provide condoms to those at risk. Once contact is made, the DIS help clients get tested and treated and in some cases earn enough trust to get a list of more people who may have been infected. One DIS commented that he had visited everyone from teenagers to senior citizens— his oldest client was 72 years old. Volusia County had more than 1,800 cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis in 2011.


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