Meet the Disease Intervention Specialist
A key player in the public health Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) field is the Disease Intervention Specialist (DIS). There are 11 DIS in Oregon and two field supervisors. Most of DIS are based in the Portland metropolitan area. DIS are trained professionals, informed about the causes and spread of STDs, skilled in taking sexual histories, identifying and locating people who may have been exposed to an STD, and know where to refer people for evaluation and treatment. DIS provide counseling about behaviors that put a person at risk for STDs, including HIV infection.
DIS are available to help medical providers locate patients who have been tested but did not return to get positive test results or treatment. In those cases, they can act as an agent of the medical provider, using their resources and experience to locate these patients. Once located, patients are referred back to the original provider or to a county clinic as appropriate.
In addition to individual case follow up, DIS offer STD educational outreach to audiences, such as colleges, correctional facilities, health care providers, community organizations and the general public.
DIS focus on:
- Providing the patient with accurate information about his/her disease and techniques to prevent infections in the future;
- Establishing a contract with the patient so that unaware partners receive confidential and prompt diagnosis and treatment; and
- Locating exposed partners and coordinating their medical follow-up.
While many persons contacted by DIS are less than eager about receiving notification, most are helpful once they understand the importance of receiving treatment for STDs and are assured of the absolute confidentiality of the information they provide.
Generally, the patient and the DIS arrive at a plan to assure that at-risk partners are notified. In some instances, the patient decides to notify and refer their sexual partners. In this case the DIS provides coaching on how to do this successfully. In other cases, patients prefer that the DIS inform their partner. When a DIS notifies exposed partners, identifying information about the original patient is never disclosed.The DIS operates confidentially, is persistent without being aggressive and maintains a sense of urgency. The goal is for patients and named partners to receive notification within 48 hours.