Chlamydia rates rising

When a University doctor and a public policy professor teamed up with Planned Parenthood to form a womenâÄôs health policy alliance, they decided to take on the most commonly reported communicable disease in Minnesota âÄî chlamydia. The sexually transmitted bacterial infection, which often has no symptoms, is occurring at a rising rate and poses a serious threat to womenâÄôs health, even though it can be treated with one dose of antibiotics. Peter Carr, director of the STD and HIV section at the Minnesota Department of Health, will talk Wednesday at the University about the threat that this and other STIs pose to womenâÄôs health, and about a recently passed law that could help reverse the epidemic. Expedited Partner Therapy is a practice where clinicians give or prescribe STI treatment without actually seeing the patient, Carr said. MinnesotaâÄôs law, passed in May, specifically allows EPT for treatment of partners of patients diagnosed with chlamydia or gonorrhea. When Dr. Nancy Raymond, director of the Powell Center for WomenâÄôs Health, Sally Kenney, director of the Center for Women and Public Policy, and Planned Parenthood looked at pressing health issues for women, Raymond said the chlamydia epidemic came to mind. âÄúIt can cause infertility before the woman is even aware that sheâÄôs got to be treated,âÄù Raymond said. The alliance worked with state legislators to get the EPT bill sponsored and written. Although requested funding for treatment and education wasnâÄôt granted, Raymond said publicizing EPT could be helpful in stemming the chlamydia tide. Raymond said she expects wider availability of EPT âÄúcan really reduce the prevalence of [chlamydia].âÄù Even if a woman is treated, she can continue to be re-infected by her symptomless partner, making EPT important in getting treatment to partners who arenâÄôt interested in going to the clinic themselves. Chlamydia is on the rise nationally, but especially in Minnesota. The apparent increase is due to a combination of better testing methods âÄî which increase awareness âÄî and an actual increase in the rate of infection, Raymond said. She added that in the past, chlamydia was neglected and allowed to âÄúspread throughout the population unchecked,âÄù as public health efforts focused on gonorrhea and syphilis. While some clinics chose to offer EPT prior to this legislation, Raymond said there was always some nervousness because the law was silent about the practice âÄî although no law forbade it, there was also no law protecting it. Deborah Sandberg, primary care physician at Boynton, said there is no formal policy about the practice. ItâÄôs left up to the providerâÄôs discretion. Dr. Carol Nelson , who practices in BoyntonâÄôs WomenâÄôs Clinic , said her clinic has been offering EPT for quite some time. âÄúOur main goal is that we donâÄôt want our patient to be re-infected,âÄù she said. She said instead of influencing the clinicâÄôs practices, the law reinforces them. She added, however, that there may have been some physicians at Boynton who were uncomfortable with the practice. The law removed the last potential legal barrier to practicing EPT, Carr said. In the past, it was required that prescriptions include information about the person receiving them, such as their name and address. Now, patients can receive prescriptions for their partnersâÄô treatment without giving names. Carr said EPT isnâÄôt the first choice âÄî itâÄôs best to get the partner into the clinic âÄî but itâÄôs another option. Alissa Light , clinic manager at Family Tree Clinic , a St. Paul nonprofit, said education, testing and access to treatment are important. âÄúEPT is a step in the right direction,âÄù she said.