RD252 - 2019 Expedited Partner Therapy Report – May 15, 2019
Sexually transmitted disease (STD) rates have risen over the past five years in Virginia and nationally. In 2017, a record number of new cases of chlamydia and gonorrhea, the most common STDs, were reported in the United States. STDs can cause serious health problems if untreated. Some individuals with STDs do not have symptoms and therefore may not be motivated to seek treatment. Expedited Partner Therapy (EPT) is an important public health intervention to help control the spread of STDs in the community.
EPT is the clinical practice of prescribing medication, without evaluation by a practitioner, to sex partners of patients diagnosed with chlamydia and/or gonorrhea. While a clinical evaluation is the preferred method when partners need treatment, EPT is an important option if a practitioner determines prompt evaluation and treatment of partners is not otherwise likely or feasible. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends EPT as an evidence-based option, particularly for treatment of male partners of women with chlamydia or gonorrhea (CDC, 2006 and 2015). An amendment to the Code of Virginia (Code), § 54.1-3303, became effective July 1, 2018, and a further amendment became effective July 1, 2019, to allow health department practitioners to provide EPT consistent with CDC recommendations. Unless the General Assembly extends this authority, the statute is set to expire July 1, 2020. The General Assembly could consider extending the authority to allow VDH additional time to more fully evaluate this public health intervention as a way to control the spread of STDs.
As of March 31, 2019, Virginia Department of Health (VDH) practitioners in nine health districts used EPT to treat a total of sixteen persons. VDH practitioners report challenges to administering EPT, due to requirements that the practictioner speak to each sex partner prior to prescribing or dispensing EPT medication. To improve utilization of EPT and decrease rising rates of chlamydia and gonorrhea, the General Assembly could also consider amendments to EPT laws.