The 2018 theme: Treat Me Right, focuses on how patients and providers can work together to keep patients safe and healthy
Baltimore, MD (April 5, 2018) – The Maryland Department of Health is reaching out to health care providers and patients with an important message during Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) Awareness Month: Treat Me Right. With chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis at an all-time high nationwide, the focus on the relationship between health care providers and patients is more important than ever.
For providers, Treat Me Right involves many aspects of patient care, from establishing a trusting relationship with patients, to asking patients about their sexual health, to assuring that patients are properly diagnosed and correctly treated. For patients, Treat Me Right means knowing what they can do to protect their sexual and reproductive health and feeling empowered to directly ask their provider for the care that they need.
“Accurate prevention and treatment efforts for STDs is critical,” said Dr. Howard Haft, deputy secretary of Public Health Services at the Maryland Department of Health. “We’re encouraging patients and providers to work together to have open and honest conversations about sexual and reproductive health; not only during STD Awareness Month, but throughout the whole year.”
In Maryland, from 2013 through 2017 (preliminary year-end data):
- Reported cases of Chlamydia rose 24 percent
- cases of Gonorrhea rose 89 percent
- Those most affected by chlamydia and gonorrhea were adolescents and young adults, ages 15-24. That demographic is 13 percent of Maryland’s population, yet it accounted for 65 percent of chlamydia cases and 48 percent of gonorrhea cases
- Reported cases of primary and secondary syphilis (the infectious stages) rose 25 percent, with about half of those infections occurring in those under 30 years of age
Untreated, STDs can cause long-term and serious health problems, and increase the likelihood of acquiring or transmitting human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection, but there are effective ways to prevent and diagnose STDs, as well as to treat or manage them. Abstaining from sex, reducing the number of sexual partners, and consistently and correctly using condoms and dental dams are all effective prevention strategies. For people who are sexually active, particularly young people, STD screening and prompt treatment (if infected) are essential for protecting health and preventing transmission to others. Safe, effective vaccines are also available to prevent hepatitis B and some types of the human papillomavirus (HPV) that cause disease and, in some cases, cause cancer.
Maryland patients and providers should also be aware of the threat of multi-drug resistant gonorrhea, which is a global concern. Gonorrhea has developed resistance to the last class of antibiotics used to treat it and there is now evidence of an international spread of a highly resistant strain of gonorrhea. Prevention is important, as are testing and treatment. The state and local health departments can assist providers with any cases of suspected treatment failures.
Patients should start the conversation themselves if their health care provider doesn’t ask about sexual health and offer STD testing and vaccines. Patients should look for a provider who listens to their concerns, explains things in an understandable way, and encourages them to ask questions. Important resources to help patients include:
- Take Charge of Your Sexual Health, a guide on how to talk with your health care provider about sexual health, how to talk to your partner, and how to prevent STDs
- Information for patients on prevention, testing, and treatment on the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control’s (CDC) website
- Free and confidential in-home testing for some strains of chlamydia and gonorrhea for Maryland residents through the “I Want the Kit.” Patients can select free or low-cost treatment sites near them if they test positive
Resources for health care providers include:
- Sexual Health and Your Patients: A Provider’s Guide, with tips on how to better integrate sexual health conversations and recommended preventive services into routine visits with adolescents and adults including lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender patients
- Numerous education and training resources from the CDC
- Free training and continuing education credits through a new National STD Curriculum on STD diagnosis, treatment, and management
In honor of STD Awareness Month, the Maryland Department of Health, and its training partners, is offering a free, live webinar for providers titled, Extra-Genital Infections: Seek and Ye Shall Find. The webinar will take place on Wednesday, April 18 from noon to 12:45 p.m. To participate, log on at the time of the live webcast or listen to the archived webinar which will be available the following week. For information about STDs, including how to find STD testing and treatment locations, visit the Maryland Department of Health’s website.