Contributed Post From The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are surging across the United States and in Colorado. In Colorado there were 26,995 cases of chlamydia, 8,478 cases of gonorrhea, and 818 cases of syphilis (including five cases of congenital syphilis) in 2017.
Anyone who has sex is at risk of infection, so what can a health care provider do? The most important action is to talk to your patients consistently about sexual health.
“At a time when STIs are at a record high, it’s never been more important to protect your patients’ sexual health,” said Dr. Daniel Shodell, medical director of the Disease Control and Environmental Epidemiology Division at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. “Make screening for STIs part of your practice, and be sure to follow CDC guidelines for appropriate treatment, to avoid emerging drug resistance. We need to start chipping away at the reservoir of STI that has built up in our communities, and likely your patient panel as well.”
Engage with patients in a way that makes them feel heard and respected, especially around sensitive issues. For example:
- Build trust and rapport with your patients, and reassure them their information is confidential — especially before asking sensitive questions.
- Take a thorough sexual history—ask essential sexual health questions in a welcoming, relaxed tone.
- Ensure patients understand all terms used to avoid confusion.
- Use information from the sexual health history to determine which STI tests the patient needs. Some patients, such as gay or bisexual men or pregnant women, may have special testing considerations.
- Follow CDC’s STD Treatment Guidelines if patients are diagnosed with an STI.
- Encourage your patients to return for follow-up testing in three months — reinfection is common for some STIs.
When patients and providers work together, it empowers individuals to take control of their sexual health, and it allows providers to more quickly diagnose and treat any infections that occur. Visit CDC’s Treat Me Right website for information on STIs, as well as for resources for health care providers and patients.
Did you know?
- The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment can give you valuable insights and skills related to talking to patients about sexual health and STI prevention. To request training for your staff, contact Jennett Bezdek at 303-692-2688 or Emily Carson at 303-692-2747
- Syphilis and gonorrhea cases should be reported to Colorado public health within one working day, and chlamydia within four days. Find forms and guidelines here.