Meet the DIS (Disease Intervention Specialists)
A key player in public health sexually transmitted disease (STD) field is the Disease Intervention Specialist (DIS). There are 19 DIS in South Dakota and 1 field supervisor. DIS are spread out over the state at locations in Aberdeen, Pierre, Rapid City, Sioux Falls and Watertown. 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, Health Department office, family planning office or other clinic for treatment.
In addition to individual case follow-up, DIS offer STD education outreach to health care providers, community organizations and the general public.
DIS focus on:
- Providing the patient with accurate information about his/her disease and ways to prevent infection in the future;
- Notifying and locating unaware partners so they can receive confidential and prompt diagnosis and treatment.
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 assure of the absolute confidentiality of the information they provided.
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 operation confidentially, is persistent without being aggressive and maintains a sense of urgency.