Clinical Prevention Guidance
The prevention and control of STDs are based on the following five major strategies (5):
- accurate risk assessment and education and counseling of persons at risk on ways to avoid STDs through changes in sexual behaviors and use of recommended prevention services;
- pre-exposure vaccination of persons at risk for vaccine-preventable STDs;
- identification of asymptomatically infected persons and persons with symptoms associated with STDs;
- effective diagnosis, treatment, counseling, and follow up of infected persons; and
- evaluation, treatment, and counseling of sex partners of persons who are infected with an STD.
Primary prevention of STDs includes performing an assessment of behavioral risk (i.e., assessing the sexual behaviors that may place persons at risk for infection) as well as biologic risk (i.e., testing for risk markers for HIV acquisition or transmission). As part of the clinical encounter, health-care providers should routinely obtain sexual histories from their patients and address risk reduction as indicated in this report. Guidance for obtaining a sexual history is available on the CDC Division of STD Prevention resource page (https://www.cdc.gov/std/treatment/resources.htm) and in the curriculum provided by CDC’s STD/HIV Prevention Training Centers (http://nnptc.org/clinical-ptcs). Effective interviewing and counseling skills characterized by respect, compassion, and a nonjudgmental attitude toward all patients are essential to obtaining a thorough sexual history and delivering effective prevention messages. Effective techniques for facilitating rapport with patients include the use of 1) open-ended questions (e.g., “Tell me about any new sex partners you’ve had since your last visit,” and “What has your experience with using condoms been like?”); 2) understandable, nonjudgmental language (“Are your sex partners men, women, or both?” “Have you ever had a sore or scab on your penis?”); and 3) normalizing language (“Some of my patients have difficulty using a condom with every sex act. How is it for you?”). The “Five P’s” approach to obtaining a sexual history is one strategy for eliciting information concerning five key areas of interest (Box 1). For additional information about gaining cultural competency when working with certain populations (e.g., gay, bisexual, or other men who have sex with men [MSM], women who have sex with women [WSW], or transgender men and women) see MSM, WSW, and Transgender Men and Women.
BOX 1. The Five P’s: Partners, Practices, Prevention of Pregnancy, Protection from STDs, and Past History of STDs
- “Do you have sex with men, women, or both?”
- “In the past 2 months, how many partners have you had sex with?”
- “In the past 12 months, how many partners have you had sex with?”
- “Is it possible that any of your sex partners in the past 12 months had sex with someone else while they were still in a sexual relationship with you?”
- “To understand your risks for STDs, I need to understand the kind of sex you have had recently.”
- “Have you had vaginal sex, meaning ‘penis in vagina sex’?” If yes, “Do you use condoms: never, sometimes, or always?”
- “Have you had anal sex, meaning ‘penis in rectum/anus sex’?” If yes, “Do you use condoms: never, sometimes, or always?”
- “Have you had oral sex, meaning ‘mouth on penis/vagina’?”
- If “never”: “Why don’t you use condoms?”
- If “sometimes”: “In what situations (or with whom) do you use condoms?”
- Prevention of pregnancy
- “What are you doing to prevent pregnancy?”
- Protection from STDs
- “What do you do to protect yourself from STDs and HIV?”
- Past history of STDs
- “Have you ever had an STD?”
- “Have any of your partners had an STD?”
- “Have you or any of your partners ever injected drugs?”
- “Have your or any of your partners exchanged money or drugs for sex?”
- “Is there anything else about your sexual practices that I need to know about?”
In addition to obtaining a behavioral risk assessment, a comprehensive STD/HIV risk assessment should include STD screening, because STDs are biologic markers of risk, particularly for HIV acquisition and transmission among some MSM. STD screening is an essential and underutilized component of an STD/HIV risk assessment in most clinical settings. Persons seeking treatment or evaluation for a particular STD should be screened for HIV and other STDs as indicated by community prevalence and individual risk factors (see prevention section and sections on chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis). Persons should be informed about all the STDs for which they are being tested and notified about tests for common STDs (e.g., genital herpes and human papillomavirus [HPV]) that are available but not being performed. Efforts should be made to ensure that all persons receive care regardless of individual circumstances (e.g., ability to pay, citizenship or immigration status, language spoken, or specific sex practices).
After obtaining a sexual history from their patients, all providers should encourage risk reduction by providing prevention counseling. Prevention counseling is most effective if provided in a nonjudgmental and empathetic manner appropriate to the patient’s culture, language, gender, sexual orientation, age, and developmental level. Prevention counseling for STD/HIV should be offered to all sexually active adolescents and to all adults who have received an STD diagnosis, have had an STD in the past year, or have multiple sexual partners.
USPSTF recommends high-intensity behavioral counseling for all sexually active adolescents and for adults at increased risk for STDs and HIV (6,7). Such interactive counseling, which can be resource intensive, is directed at a person’s risk, the situations in which risk occurs, and the use of personalized goal-setting strategies. One such approach, known as client-centered STD/HIV prevention counseling, involves tailoring a discussion of risk reduction to the individual situation. While one large study in STD clinics (Project RESPECT) demonstrated that this approach was associated with lower acquisition of curable STDs (e.g., trichomoniasis, chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis) (8), another study conducted 10 years later in the same settings but different contexts (Project AWARE) did not replicate this result (9). Briefer provider-delivered prevention messages have been shown to be feasible and to decrease subsequent STDs in HIV primary-care settings (10). Other approaches use motivational interviewing to move clients toward achievable risk-reduction goals. Client-centered counseling and motivational interviewing can be used effectively by clinicians and staff trained in these approaches. CDC provides additional information on these and other effective behavioral interventions at http://effectiveinterventions.org. Training in client-centered counseling is available through the CDC STD/HIV National Network of Prevention Training Centers (http://nnptc.org).
In addition to one-on-one STD/HIV prevention counseling, videos and large-group presentations can provide explicit information concerning STDs and reducing disease transmission (e.g., how to use condoms correctly and the importance of routine screening). Group-based strategies have been effective in reducing the occurrence of STDs among persons at risk, including those attending STD clinics (11).
Because the incidence of some STDs, notably syphilis, is higher in persons with HIV infection, the use of client-centered STD counseling for persons with HIV infection continues to be strongly encouraged by public health agencies and other health organizations. A recent federal guideline recommends that clinical and nonclinical providers assess an individual’s behavioral and biologic risks for acquiring or transmitting STD and HIV, including having sex without condoms, recent STDs, and partners recently treated for STDs. This guideline also recommends that clinical and nonclinical providers offer or make referral for 1) regular screening for several STDs, 2) onsite STD treatment when indicated, and 3) risk-reduction interventions tailored to the individual’s risks (12). Brief risk-reduction counseling delivered by medical providers during HIV primary-care visits coupled with routine STD screening has been shown to reduce STD incidence in persons with HIV infection (10). Several other specific methods have been designed for the HIV care setting (http://effectiveinterventions.org) (13-15).
Pre-exposure vaccination is one of the most effective methods for preventing transmission of human papillomavirus (HPV), HAV, and HBV. HPV vaccination is recommended routinely for boys and girls aged 11 or 12 years and can be administered beginning at 9 years of age. Either bivalent, quadrivalent, or 9-valent HPV vaccine is recommended for females, whereas quadrivalent vaccine or 9-valent vaccine is recommended for males (16) https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/acip-recs/vacc-specific/hpv.html. Vaccination is recommended through age 26 years for all females and through age 21 years for all males that have not received any or all of the vaccine doses. For persons with HIV infection and for MSM, vaccination is recommended through age 26 years (16). Further details regarding HPV vaccination are available in another section of this document (see HPV Vaccine), at www.cdc.gov/std/hpv, and at https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/acip-recs/vacc-specific/hpv.html.
Hepatitis B vaccination is recommended for all unvaccinated, uninfected persons being evaluated or treated for an STD (3,4). In addition, hepatitis A and B vaccines are recommended for MSM, injection-drug users (IDUs), persons with chronic liver disease (CLD), and persons with HIV infection who have not yet been infected with one or both types of hepatitis virus (3,4, 17). Details regarding hepatitis A and B vaccination are available at https://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis.
Abstinence and Reduction of Number of Sex Partners
The most reliable way to avoid transmission of STDs is to abstain from oral, vaginal, and anal sex or to be in a long-term, mutually monogamous relationship with a partner known to be uninfected. For persons who are being treated for an STD other than HIV (or whose partners are undergoing treatment), counseling that encourages abstinence from sexual intercourse until completion of the entire course of medication is crucial. A recent trial conducted among women on the effectiveness of counseling messages demonstrated that women whose sexual partners have used condoms may benefit from a hierarchical message that includes condoms, whereas women without such experience might benefit more from an abstinence-only message (18). A more comprehensive discussion of abstinence and other sexual practices than can help persons reduce their risk for STDs is available in Contraceptive Technology, 20th Edition (19).
When used consistently and correctly, male latex condoms are highly effective in preventing the sexual transmission of HIV infection. In heterosexual HIV serodiscordant relationships (i.e., those involving one infected and one uninfected partner) in which condoms were consistently used, HIV-negative partners were 80% less likely to become infected with HIV compared with persons in similar relationships in which condoms were not used (20,21). Moreover, studies demonstrate that consistent condom use reduces the risk for other STDs, including chlamydia, gonorrhea, and trichomoniasis (22–24). By limiting lower genital tract infections, condoms also might reduce the risk of developing pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) in women (25). In addition, consistent and correct use of latex condoms reduces the risk for HPV infection and HPV-associated diseases, genital herpes, hepatitis B, syphilis, and chancroid when the infected area or site of potential exposure is covered (26–32). Additional information is available at www.cdc.gov/condomeffectiveness/index.html and www.factsaboutcondoms.com/professional.php.
Condoms are regulated as medical devices and are subject to random sampling and testing by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Each latex condom manufactured in the United States is tested electronically for holes before packaging. Rate of condom breakage during sexual intercourse and withdrawal is approximately two broken condoms per 100 condoms used in the United States. Rates of breakage and slippage may be slightly higher during anal intercourse (33,34). The failure of condoms to protect against STD or unintended pregnancy usually results from inconsistent or incorrect use rather than condom breakage (35). Users should check the expiration or manufacture date on the box or individual package. Latex condoms should not be used beyond their expiration date or more than 5 years after the manufacturing date. Male condoms made of materials other than latex are available in the United States and can be classified in two general categories: 1) polyurethane and other synthetic and 2) natural membrane.
Polyurethane male condoms provide comparable protection against STDs/HIV and pregnancy to that of latex condoms (19, 24). These can be substituted for latex condoms by persons with latex allergy, are generally more resistant to deterioration, and are compatible with use of both oil-based and water-based lubricants. The effectiveness of other synthetic male condoms to prevent sexually transmitted infections has not been extensively studied, and FDA-labeling restricts their recommended use to latex-sensitive or allergic persons. Natural membrane condoms (frequently called “natural skin” condoms or [incorrectly] “lambskin” condoms) are made from lamb cecum and can have pores up to 1,500 nm in diameter. Although these pores do not allow the passage of sperm, they are more than 10 times the diameter of HIV and more than 25 times that of HBV. Moreover, laboratory studies demonstrate that sexual transmission of viruses, including hepatitis B, herpes simplex, and HIV, can occur with natural membrane condoms (19). While natural membrane condoms are recommended for pregnancy prevention, they are not recommended for prevention of STDs and HIV.
Providers should advise that condoms must be used consistently and correctly to be effective in preventing STDs and HIV infection; providing instructions about the correct use of condoms can be useful. Communicating the following recommendations can help ensure that patients use male condoms correctly:
- Use a new condom with each sex act (i.e., oral, vaginal, and anal).
- Carefully handle the condom to avoid damaging it with fingernails, teeth, or other sharp objects.
- Put the condom on after the penis is erect and before any genital, oral, or anal contact with the partner.
- Use only water-based lubricants (e.g., K-Y Jelly, Astroglide, AquaLube, and glycerin) with latex condoms. Oil-based lubricants (e.g., petroleum jelly, shortening, mineral oil, massage oils, body lotions, and cooking oil) can weaken latex and should not be used; however, oil-based lubricants can generally be used with synthetic condoms.
- Ensure adequate lubrication during vaginal and anal sex, which might require the use of exogenous water-based lubricants.
- To prevent the condom from slipping off, hold the condom firmly against the base of the penis during withdrawal, and withdraw while the penis is still erect.
Additional information about male condoms is available at https://www.cdc.gov/condomeffectiveness/index.html.
Several condoms for females are globally available, including the FC2 Female Condom, Reddy condom, Cupid female condom, and Woman’s condom (36). Use of female condoms can provide protection from acquisition and transmission of STDs, although data are limited (36). Although female condoms are more costly compared with male condoms, they offer the advantage of being a female-controlled STD/HIV prevention method, and the newer versions may be acceptable to both men and women. Although the female condom also has been used during receptive anal intercourse, efficacy associated with this practice remains unknown (37). Additional information about the female condom is available at www.ashasexualhealth.org/sexual-health/all-about-condoms/female-condoms/.
In observational studies, diaphragm use has been demonstrated to protect against cervical gonorrhea, chlamydia, and trichomoniasis (38). However, a trial examining the effect of a diaphragm plus lubricant on HIV acquisition among women in Africa showed no additional protective effect when compared with the use of male condoms alone. Likewise, no difference by study arm in the rate of acquisition of chlamydia, gonorrhea, or herpes occurred (39,40). Diaphragms should not be relied on as the sole source of protection against HIV or other STDs.
Topical Microbicides and Spermicides
Nonspecific topical microbicides are ineffective for preventing HIV (41–45). Spermicides containing N-9 might disrupt genital or rectal epithelium and have been associated with an increased risk for HIV infection. Condoms with N-9 are no more effective than condoms without N-9; therefore, N-9 alone or in a condom is not recommended for STD or HIV prevention (41). N-9 use has also been associated with an increased risk for bacterial urinary tract infections in women (46,47). No proven topical antiretroviral agents exist for the prevention of HIV, though trials are underway to evaluate several candidates for vaginal and rectal microbicides using tenofovir and other antiretroviral drugs.
Nonbarrier Contraception, Surgical Sterilization, and Hysterectomy
Contraceptive methods that are not mechanical barriers offer no protection against HIV or other STDs. Sexually active women who use hormonal contraception (i.e., oral contraceptives, patch, ring, implants, injectables, or intrauterine hormonal methods), have nonhormonal intrauterine devices (IUDs), have been surgically sterilized, or have had hysterectomies should be counseled to use condoms to reduce the risk for STDs, including HIV infection. Women who take oral contraceptives and are prescribed certain antimicrobials should be counseled about potential interactions (19).
Whether hormonal contraception raises a woman’s risk for acquiring HIV or another STD is unclear. A systematic review of epidemiologic evidence found that most studies showed no association between use of oral contraceptives and HIV acquisition among women. Studies examining the association between progestin-only injectables and HIV acquisition have had mixed results; some studies show a higher risk of acquisition among women using depo- medroxyprogesterone acetate (DMPA), while other studies do not (48). The World Health Organization (WHO) and CDC reviewed the evidence on hormonal contraception and HIV acquisition and concluded that data are insufficient to recommend that women modify their hormonal contraceptive practices, but that women using progestin-only injectables should be strongly advised to also use condoms as an HIV prevention strategy (49,50).
Male circumcision reduces the risk for HIV and some STDs in heterosexual men. Three randomized, controlled trials performed in regions of sub-Saharan Africa where generalized HIV epidemics involving predominantly heterosexual transmission were occurring demonstrated that male circumcision reduced the risk for HIV acquisition among men by 50%–60% (51–53). In these trials, circumcision was also protective against other STDs, including high-risk genital HPV infection and genital herpes (54-56). Follow up studies have demonstrated sustained benefit of circumcision for HIV prevention (57) and that the effect is not mediated solely through a reduction in herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) infection or genital ulcer disease (58).
WHO and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) have recommended that male circumcision efforts be scaled up as an effective intervention for the prevention of heterosexually acquired HIV infection (59). These organizations also recommend that countries with hyperendemic and generalized HIV epidemics and low prevalence of male circumcision expand access to safe male circumcision services within the context of ensuring universal access to comprehensive HIV prevention, treatment, care, and support. In the United States, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that newborn male circumcision be available to families that desire it, as the benefits of the procedure, including prevention of penile cancers, urinary tract infections, genital ulcer disease, and HIV outweigh the risks (60). ACOG has also endorsed the AAP’s policy statement (60). In light of these benefits, the American Urological Association states that male circumcision should be considered an option for risk reduction, among other strategies (61).
No definitive data exist to determine whether male circumcision reduces HIV acquisition in MSM, although one randomized trial is ongoing in China (62). A review found a modest protective effect among men who were the insertive partner for anal intercourse, but the evidence was rated as poor. Further higher quality studies are needed to confirm any potential benefit of male circumcision for this population (62).
Unprotected intercourse exposes women to risks for STDs and unplanned pregnancy. Providers managing such women should offer counseling about the option of emergency contraception (EC) if pregnancy is not desired. The options for EC in the United States include the copper IUD and emergency contraceptive pills (ECPs) (63). ECPs are available in the following formulations: ulipristal acetate in a single dose (30 mg), levonorgestrel in a single dose (1.5 mg) or as a split dose (0.75 mg each taken 12 hours apart), or combined estrogen and progestin (Yuzpe regimen). Some ECPs can be obtained over the counter; ECPs can also be provided through advance prescription or supply from providers (64,65). Emergency insertion of a copper IUD up to 5 days after sex can reduce pregnancy risk by more than 99% (66). ECPs are most efficacious when initiated as soon as possible after unprotected sex but have some efficacy up to 5 days later. ECPs are ineffective (but not harmful) if the woman is already pregnant (67). A 2012 Cochrane review summarized the efficacy, safety, and convenience of various methods of emergency contraception (67). More information about EC is available in the 20th edition of Contraceptive Technology (19) or http://www.arhp.org/topics/emergency-contraception.
Postexposure Prophylaxis for HIV and STD
Guidelines for the use of postexposure prophylaxis (PEP) aimed at preventing HIV infection and other STDs as a result of sexual exposure are discussed in another section of this report (see Sexual Assault and STDs). Genital hygiene methods (e.g., vaginal washing and douching) after sexual exposure are ineffective in protecting against HIV and STDs and might increase the risk for bacterial vaginosis (BV), some STDs, and HIV infection (68).
The randomized controlled trial HPTN 052 demonstrated that in HIV serodiscordant, heterosexual couples, HIV antiretroviral therapy in the infected partner decreases the risk for transmission to the uninfected partner by 96% (69). Therefore, antiretroviral therapy not only is beneficial to the health of persons with HIV infection, but also reduces the risk for continued transmission. For these reasons, treatment should be offered to all persons with HIV infection. Detailed guidance for prescribing antiretroviral regimens can be found in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ HIV treatment guidelines at aidsinfo.nih.gov/guidelines (70).
HSV Treatment of Persons with HIV and HSV Infections to Prevent HIV Infection in Uninfected Partners
Providing HSV treatment to persons co-infected with HIV and HSV has not been demonstrated to be beneficial in reducing HIV acquisition in uninfected partners. A large randomized, controlled trial evaluated 3,408 serodiscordant heterosexual couples enrolled at 14 Africa sites in which the partner with HIV infection was also seropositive for HSV-2. The co-infected partner was randomized to receive either placebo or acyclovir 400-mg twice per day, and the primary outcome was HIV transmission to the uninfected partner. Use of acyclovir had no effect on HIV transmission (71). These findings are consistent with those from a previous trial that found no benefit of acyclovir in preventing HIV-1 acquisition in persons who were seropositive for HSV-2 (72).
Certain large, randomized, placebo-controlled trials examining daily oral antiretroviral preexposure prophylaxis (PrEP) with a fixed-dose combination of tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (TDF) and emtricitabine (FTC) have demonstrated safety (73) and a substantial reduction in the rate of HIV acquisition for MSM (74), HIV-discordant heterosexual couples (75), and heterosexual men and women recruited as individuals (76). In addition, one clinical trial involving IDUs (77) and one involving heterosexual HIV-discordant couples (75) demonstrated substantial efficacy and safety of daily oral PrEP with TDF alone when combined with repeated condom provision, sexual risk-reduction counseling, and the diagnosis and treatment of STDs. High adherence to oral PrEP with TDF alone or in a fixed-dose combination with FTC was strongly associated with protection from infection. Data suggest that when administered orally, levels of TDF are lower in vaginal tissue than rectal tissue, potentially explaining why high levels of adherence were needed to yield benefits among women in these trials (78). Despite initial concerns about PrEP fostering antiretroviral resistance among persons who become infected, standard tests employed in these studies detected emergence of resistance only in persons inadvertently started on PrEP during acute HIV infection, not in persons who were initially uninfected but later became infected while taking PrEP medication (79).
The U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) has issued recommendations on the basis of these trial results and the FDA approval of an indication for the use of TDF/FTC for PrEP. USPHS recommends that clinicians evaluate HIV-negative men and women who are sexually active or injecting illicit drugs and consider PrEP as a prevention option for persons whose sexual or injection behaviors and epidemiologic context place them at substantial risk for acquiring HIV infection. Comprehensive guidance for the use of daily PrEP to reduce the risk for acquiring HIV infection can be found at https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/prevention/research/prep/index.html.
Seroadaptive strategies for HIV prevention have largely originated within communities of MSM. They are predicated on knowledge of self and partner HIV-infection status. One specific seroadaptive practice is serosorting, which includes limiting anal sex without a condom to partners with the same HIV status as their own, or choosing to selectively use condoms only with HIV serodiscordant partners. Another practice among serodiscordant couples is seropositioning, in which the person with HIV infection is the receptive partner for anal intercourse. Observational studies have consistently found that serosorting confers greater risk of HIV infection than consistent condom use, but is lower risk compared with anal intercourse without a condom and without serosorting (80-82). Serosorting practices have been associated with increased risk of STDs including chlamydia and gonorrhea (83,84).
Serosorting is not recommended for the following reasons: 1) too many MSM who have HIV do not know they are infected because they have not been tested for HIV recently, 2) men’s assumptions about the HIV status of their partners might be wrong, and 3) some men with HIV infection might not disclose or may misrepresent their HIV status. All of these factors increase the risk that serosorting could lead to HIV infection. Additional information is available at https://www.cdc.gov/msmhealth/serosorting.htm or http://www.who.int/hiv/pub/guidelines/msm_guidelines2011/en.
Retesting After Treatment to Detect Repeat Infections
Retesting several months after diagnosis of chlamydia, gonorrhea, or trichomoniasis can detect repeat infection and potentially can be used to enhance population-based prevention (85,86). Any person who tests positive for chlamydia or gonorrhea, along with women who test positive for trichomonas, should be rescreened 3 months after treatment. Any person who receives a syphilis diagnosis should undergo follow-up serologic syphilis testing per current recommendations (see Syphilis). Further details on retesting can be found in the specific sections on chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and trichomonas within this report.
The term “partner services” refers to a continuum of clinical evaluation, counseling, diagnostic testing, and treatment designed to increase the number of infected persons brought to treatment and to disrupt transmission networks. This continuum includes efforts undertaken by health departments, medical providers, and patients themselves. The term “public health partner services” refers to efforts by public health departments to identify the sex- and needle-sharing partners of infected persons to assure their medical evaluation and treatment.
Clinicians can provide partner services by counseling infected persons and providing them with written information and medication to give to their partners (if recommended and allowable by state law), directly evaluating and treating sex partners, and cooperating with state and local health departments. Clinicians’ efforts to ensure the treatment of a patient’s sex partners can reduce the risk for reinfection and potentially diminish transmission of STDs (87). Therefore, clinicians should encourage all persons with STDs to notify their sex partners and urge them to seek medical evaluation and treatment. Time spent counseling patients on the importance of notifying partners is associated with improved notification outcomes (88). When possible, clinicians should advise persons to bring their primary sex partner along with them when returning for treatment and should concurrently treat both persons. Although this approach can be effective for a main partner (89,90), it might not be feasible approach for additional sex partners. Some evidence suggests that providing patients with written information to share with sex partners can increase rates of partner treatment (87).
The types and comprehensiveness of public health partner services and the specific STDs for which they are offered vary by public health agency and the geographic burden of STDs. In most areas of the United States, health departments routinely attempt to provide partner services to all persons with early syphilis (primary, secondary, and early latent syphilis) and persons with a new diagnosis of HIV infection. It is also recommended that health departments provide partner services for persons who might have cephalosporin-resistant gonorrhea. In contrast, relatively few U.S. health departments routinely provide partner services to persons with gonorrhea, chlamydial infection, trichomonas, or other STDs (91). Clinicians should familiarize themselves with public health practices in their area, but in most instances, providers should understand that responsibility for ensuring the treatment of partners of persons with STDs other than syphilis and HIV rests with the diagnosing provider and the patient.
Many health departments now use the internet to notify the sex partners of persons with STDs (92), especially MSM and in cases where no other identifying information is available (http://www.ncsddc.org/Internet_Guidelines). Clinical providers are unlikely to participate directly in internet partner notification. Internet sites allowing patients to send anonymous e-mail or text messages advising partners of their exposure to an STD are operational in some areas; anonymous notification via the internet is considered better than no notification at all and might be an option in some instances. However, because the extent to which these sites affect partner notification and treatment is uncertain, patients should be encouraged either to notify their partners in person or by telephone, personal e-mail, or text message; alternatively, patients can authorize a medical provider or public health professional to do so.
Expedited Partner Therapy
Expedited Partner Therapy (EPT), also termed patient-delivered partner therapy (PDPT), is the clinical practice of treating the sex partners of persons who receive chlamydia or gonorrhea diagnoses by providing medications or prescriptions to the patient. Patients then provide partners with these therapies without the health-care provider having examined the partner (see www.cdc.gov/std/ept). Unless prohibited by law or other regulations, medical providers should routinely offer EPT to heterosexual patients with chlamydia or gonorrhea infection when the provider cannot confidently ensure that all of a patient’s sex partners from the prior 60 days will be treated. If the patient has not had sex in the 60 days before diagnosis, providers should attempt to treat a patient’s most recent sex partner. EPT is legal in most states. However, providers should visit www.cdc.gov/std/ept to obtain updated information for their state. Providing patients with appropriately packaged medication is the preferred approach to PDPT because data on the efficacy of PDPT using prescriptions is limited and many persons do not fill the prescriptions given to them by a sex partner. Medication or prescriptions provided for PDPT should be accompanied by treatment instructions, appropriate warnings about taking medications (if the partner is pregnant or has an allergy to the medication), general health counseling, and a statement advising that partners seek medical evaluation for any symptoms of STD, particularly PID.
The evidence supporting PDPT is based on three U.S. clinical trials involving heterosexual men and women with chlamydia or gonorrhea (93-95). All three trials reported that more partners were treated when patients were offered PDPT: two reported statistically significant declines in the rate of reinfection and one observed a lower risk of persistent or recurrent infection that was statistically nonsignificant. A fourth trial in the United Kingdom did not demonstrate a difference in the risk of reinfection or in the numbers of partners treated between persons offered PDPT and those advised to notify their sex partners (96).
U.S. trials and a meta-analysis of PDPT revealed that the magnitude of reduction in reinfection of index case-patients compared with patient referral differed according to the STD and the sex of the index case-patient (87, 93-95). However, across trials, reductions in chlamydia prevalence at follow-up were approximately 20%; reductions in gonorrhea at follow-up were approximately 50%. Existing data suggest that PDPT also might have a role in partner management for trichomoniasis; however, no single partner management intervention has been shown to be more effective than any other in reducing trichomoniasis reinfection rates (97,98). No data support use of PDPT in the routine management of patients with syphilis. Data on the use of PDPT for gonorrhea or chlamydial infection among MSM are limited (99,100). Published studies suggest that >5% of MSM without a previous HIV diagnosis have a new diagnosis of HIV infection when evaluated as partners of patients with gonorrhea or chlamydial infection (101,102). As a result, PDPT should not be used routinely in MSM. All persons who receive bacterial STD diagnoses and their sex partners, particularly MSM, should be tested for HIV infection.
The accurate and timely reporting of STDs is integral to public health efforts to assess morbidity trends, allocate limited resources, and assist local health authorities in partner notification and treatment. STD/HIV and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) cases should be reported in accordance with state and local statutory requirements. Syphilis (including congenital syphilis), gonorrhea, chlamydia, chancroid, HIV infection, and AIDS are reportable diseases in every state. Because the requirements for reporting other STDs differ by state, clinicians should be familiar with the reporting requirements applicable within their jurisdictions.
Reporting can be provider- or laboratory-based or both. Clinicians who are unsure of state and local reporting requirements should seek advice from state or local health department STD programs. STDs and HIV reports are kept strictly confidential. In most jurisdictions, such reports are protected by statute or regulation. Before conducting a follow-up of a positive STD-test result, public health professionals should consult the patient’s health-care provider if possible to verify the diagnosis and determine the treatments being received.
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- Page last updated: June 4, 2015
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