Breaking News
November 16, 2018 - Dementia symptoms peak in winter and spring, study finds
November 16, 2018 - Stanford tobacco researcher weighs in on JUUL
November 16, 2018 - Researchers find no link between infants waking up at night and later developmental problems
November 16, 2018 - Both parents and children agree about confidential medical services
November 16, 2018 - FDA warns against use of unapproved pain medications with implanted pumps
November 16, 2018 - Precision medicine-based approach to slow or reverse biologic drivers of Alzheimer’s disease
November 16, 2018 - Study provides new insight into norovirus outbreaks, may help guide efforts to develop vaccines
November 16, 2018 - Inexpensive, portable air purifier could help protect the heart from pollution
November 16, 2018 - New 15-minute scan could help diagnose brain damage in babies up to two years old
November 16, 2018 - Deep brain stimulation not effective for treating early Alzheimer’s
November 16, 2018 - Traditional chemotherapy superior to new alternative for oropharyngeal cancers | News Center
November 16, 2018 - What This Pond Protist Does With Its Genome Will Astound You
November 15, 2018 - Researchers develop tool that speeds up analysis and publication of biomedical data
November 15, 2018 - Scientists identify mechanism used by lung cancer cells to obtain glucose
November 15, 2018 - Abnormalities in development of the brain could be involved in onset of autism, finds new study
November 15, 2018 - Soy protein equally effective as animal protein in building muscle strength
November 15, 2018 - American Academy of Pediatrics, Nov. 2-6
November 15, 2018 - Dopamine drives early addiction to heroin
November 15, 2018 - Variance in gut microbiome in Himalayan populations linked to dietary lifestyle | News Center
November 15, 2018 - Reducing Cardiovascular Disease: The Amish Way
November 15, 2018 - King’s researchers launch charter to guide organizations to engage abuse survivors in research
November 15, 2018 - Enable Injections enters into development agreements with UCB and Apellis Pharmaceuticals
November 15, 2018 - TGen North collaborates with NARBHA Institute to advance human health
November 15, 2018 - Researchers discover molecular basis for therapeutic actions of an African folk medicine
November 15, 2018 - Human Cell Atlas study of early pregnancy shows how mother’s immune system is modified
November 15, 2018 - New guidelines for detecting and managing sarcopenia to be launched in the UK
November 15, 2018 - Researchers explore role of dietary composition on energy expenditure
November 15, 2018 - Elsevier launches Entellect™ Platform, unlocking value by creating AI-ready life sciences data
November 15, 2018 - Now that cannabis is legal in Canada, let’s use it to tackle the opioid crisis
November 15, 2018 - In the Spotlight: At the intersection of tech, health, and ethics
November 15, 2018 - Traditional Glaucoma Test Can Miss Severity of the Disease
November 15, 2018 - Researchers directly connect activities of genes with instinctive behavior in male cichlids
November 15, 2018 - Salk researchers report new methods to identify AD drug candidates with anti-aging properties
November 15, 2018 - St. Jude Hospital announces availability of largest collections of leukemia samples
November 15, 2018 - Attenua Announces First Patient Treated in Phase 2 Clinical Trial in Chronic Cough with Bradanicline
November 15, 2018 - Designing a novel cell-permeable peptide chimera to promote wound healing
November 15, 2018 - NEI investigators combine two imaging modalities to view the retina in unprecedented detail
November 15, 2018 - Determining how hearts develop to better understand congenital heart defects
November 15, 2018 - Maverick immune cells can act independently to identify and kill cancer cells, finds research
November 15, 2018 - Advanced AI and big data methods to tackle dementia
November 15, 2018 - Report reveals increase in pancreatic cancer death rates across Europe
November 15, 2018 - Luxia Scientific announces availability of its gut microbiome test in Luxembourg
November 15, 2018 - New diabetes drugs linked to increased risk of lower-limb amputation and ketoacidosis
November 15, 2018 - New approach targets matrix surrounding neurons to protect neurons after stroke
November 15, 2018 - Lilly Submits New Drug Application to the FDA for Lasmiditan for Acute Treatment of Migraine
November 15, 2018 - Heart failure patients shouldn’t stop meds even if condition improves: study
November 15, 2018 - Parents and carers of people with diabetes experience emotional or mental health problems
November 15, 2018 - RetiPharma secures funding to develop new peptide drug for treating degenerative eye disorders
November 15, 2018 - Breakthrough research could lead to a new wave of cancer-fighting antibodies
November 15, 2018 - Mylan and Biocon launch new insulin glargine biosimilar in the UK
November 15, 2018 - For wildfire safety, only particular masks guard against toxic particulate matter
November 15, 2018 - New study of tribe shows influence of Western diet and lifestyle on blood pressure
November 15, 2018 - Scientists harness power of natural killer cells to treat children with neuroblastoma
November 15, 2018 - Investigating foodborne disease outbreak in Bosnia and Herzegovina based on simulation game
November 15, 2018 - Recommendations Issued for Management of Bradycardia
November 15, 2018 - Benefit unclear due to a lack of suitable studies
November 15, 2018 - TAMEST recognizes UT Southwestern’s Ralph DeBerardinis for changing our understanding of cancer
November 15, 2018 - Researchers discover key factors behind intestinal inflammation in CVID patients
November 15, 2018 - CityU develops first microarrayed 3D neuronal culture platform
November 15, 2018 - Expert suggests ways to control uncomfortable vaginal symptoms in diabetic women
November 15, 2018 - New edition of Red Journal focuses on roles of imaging in radiation oncology
November 15, 2018 - Doctors Aren’t Promoting Breastfeeding’s Cancer-Protection Benefit
November 15, 2018 - Collection of demonstration projects highlights value of patient engagement in research
November 15, 2018 - Technique to ‘listen’ to a patient’s brain during tumour surgery
November 15, 2018 - Seven-year-old returns to life as a “normal, healthy child” following bone marrow transplant
November 15, 2018 - AMSBIO expands range of high quality FFPE cancer cell line controls
November 15, 2018 - Marijuana use by kidney donors has no effect on transplant outcomes
November 15, 2018 - Exploring NMR Spectroscopy Applications through Interesting Infographics
November 15, 2018 - Chapman University wins additional $2.9 million NIH grant to study Alzheimer’s disease
November 15, 2018 - Microgel powder reduces infection and promotes healing
November 15, 2018 - Suicidal patients with prescribed access to psychotropic drugs should be closely monitored
November 15, 2018 - Nitric oxide-releasing technology shows potential to reduce healing time of diabetic foot ulcers
November 15, 2018 - Mass shootings may trigger unnecessary blood donations
November 15, 2018 - From heart disease to cancer: New study tracks shift of county death rates
November 15, 2018 - Preventing falls with new sensor technology
November 15, 2018 - Promising technology could improve detection, diagnosis of fatal ovarian cancer
November 15, 2018 - AAP updates concussion recommendations for children and teens
November 15, 2018 - Two genomic tests help identify most effective treatment for breast cancer patients
November 15, 2018 - Researchers evaluate efficacy of salivary biomarkers for early detection of oral cancer
November 15, 2018 - NIH awards $3.5 million to continue development of robotic system for treating brain tumors
Primary care doctors ‘not doing enough’ to curb STDs

Primary care doctors ‘not doing enough’ to curb STDs

image_pdfDownload PDFimage_print

Julie Lopez, 21, has been tested regularly for sexually transmitted diseases since she was a teenager. But when Lopez first asked her primary care doctor about screening, he reacted with surprise, she said.

“He said people don’t usually ask. But I did,” said Lopez, a college student in Pasadena, Calif. “It’s really important.”

Lopez usually goes to Planned Parenthood instead for the tests because “they ask the questions that need to be asked,” she said.

As rates of sexually transmitted infections steadily rise nationwide, public health officials and experts say primary care doctors need to step up screening and treatment.

“We know that doctors are not doing enough screening for STDs,” said David Harvey, executive director at the National Coalition of STD Directors. The failure to screen routinely “is leading to an explosion in STD rates,” he said, adding that cutbacks in funding and a lack of patient awareness about the risks make it worse.

The federal government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has set guidelines for annual screening for sexually active individuals. Among them: women under 25 should be tested for gonorrhea and chlamydia, and men who have sex with men should get tested for syphilis, chlamydia and gonorrhea.

However, testing does not always happen as recommended. For example, only about half of sexually active women ages 16 to 24 with private health plans or Medicaid were screened for chlamydia in 2015. The rate was slightly better in California.

Nationally, reported cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis are at an all-time high, CDC data show. In one year, from 2016 to 2017, nationwide rates of chlamydia rose by 7 percent, gonorrhea by 19 percent and syphilis by 11 percent.

Rates of congenital syphilis, which passes from mother to baby during pregnancy or delivery, increased by 44 percent during that time. Nearly one-third of the congenital syphilis cases are from California. The state also saw a record number of STDs last year: more than 300,000 cases of gonorrhea, chlamydia and early syphilis among adults.

Because sexually transmitted infections are often asymptomatic, screening is essential. Untreated STDs can lead to serious health problems, such as chronic pain, infertility or even death.

“Providers and primary care providers play a crucial role in combating these rising STD rates,” said Dr. Laura Bachmann, chief medical officer for the CDC division of STD prevention. “If providers don’t ask the questions and don’t apply the screening recommendations, the majority of STDs will be missed.”

State governments don’t have enough money to combat the rising number of cases, in part because federal STD funding for them has remained stagnant, Harvey said. Last year, he said, $152.3 million in federal funding was appropriated for prevention, the same as eight years earlier.

Experts cite several reasons primary care physicians don’t routinely diagnose and treat STDs. They may worry that they won’t be compensated for providing STD services, or they may not be familiar with the most up-to-date recommendations about testing and treatment. For example, the CDC in 2015 updated the medications it recommends to treat gonorrhea.

Perhaps most commonly, many family physicians are reluctant to discuss sexual health with their patients. One study showed that one-third of adolescents had annual visits that didn’t include any discussion about sexuality.

“We’re in this situation with health care providers and patients — each waiting for the other to start [the conversation],” said Dr. Edward Hook, professor at the University of Alabama-Birmingham School of Medicine. “Doctors worry if they ask patients about their sexual history that it will somehow be offensive to them.”

Dr. Michael Munger, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians, said he remembers that his conversations around sexual health were uncomfortable at first. “There are a lot of challenging conversations you can have with patients,” he said. “But this is important. If we don’t do it, who will?”

Rob Nolan, a writer from Los Angeles, said he gets tested every six months, but he prefers to do so at the Los Angeles LGBT Center rather than during visits with his regular doctor, who rarely asks about sexual health.

Nolan, who said he has had experience with STDs, considers the clinic’s staff to be more knowledgeable about sexual health than those at a regular doctor’s office. “They just seem specialized in it,” he said. “And there is zero shame when you are in the clinic.”

Physicians also may have other, more immediate health issues to address during the short time they have with patients. Taking a sexual history and talking about sexual health falls to the bottom of many doctors’ priorities, said Dr. Leo Moore, acting medical director of the division of HIV and STD programs for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

Julia Brewer, a nurse practitioner at Northeast Community Clinic in Hawthorne, Calif., said she screens for STDs as a regular part of women’s health exams. But she said her colleagues frequently refer cases to her rather than having the conversations themselves. “The family providers are overwhelmed with diabetes and high blood pressure,” she said. Sexual health, she said, can end up being an “afterthought.”

The L.A. County public health department, which identified STDs as a key priority for the next five years, recently sent representatives to doctors’ offices to teach providers how to address sexually transmitted infections. They distributed information detailing screening recommendations, sample sexual history questions and treatment guidelines.

The Los Angeles County Medical Association also plans to get the word out to doctors through social media and other efforts. “It’s an epidemic and we have to treat it that way,” said CEO Gustavo Friederichsen. “Doctors have to feel a sense of urgency.”

Dr. Heidi Bauer, who heads the California Department of Public Health’s STD control branch, said the state also is trying to educate doctors so they will screen more routinely. The department provides both in-person and online training for doctors to learn about STDs, and publishes downloadable information with current guidelines.

At the same time, Bauer urged the federal government to make its screening recommendations more comprehensive. Outside of pregnancy, for example, there are no recommendations for routine syphilis screening for women. “We are seeing this huge re-emergence of syphilis,” she said. “We haven’t been testing and syphilis is very challenging to diagnose.”

The CDC plans to review the recommendations in the next year, Bachmann said.

KHN’s coverage in California is supported in part by Blue Shield of California Foundation.

Kaiser Health NewsThis article was reprinted from khn.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

Tagged with:

About author

Related Articles