Over 90 Percent of What Planned Parenthood Does, Part 22: Expedited Partner Therapy for Chlamydia

200373577-001Welcome to the latest installment of “Over 90 Percent of What Planned Parenthood Does,” a series on Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona’s blog that highlights Planned Parenthood’s diverse array of services — the ones Jon Kyl never knew about.

So, you got chlamydia. It happens. In fact, it happens to an estimated 2.86 million Americans every year, and is the most common bacterial sexually transmitted disease (STD) in the country.

After testing positive for chlamydia, you can receive extra antibiotics to hand-deliver to your partner.

Your infection didn’t come out of thin air — you got it from somewhere. Maybe you have a new sex partner who wasn’t tested and treated for any STDs before you got together. Perhaps you’re in a non-monogamous relationship. You also could have had it for a while before you found out about it, during which time a partner might have unknowingly caught it from you. One reason chlamydia can spread so easily — by vaginal, anal, or oral sex — is because it usually doesn’t come with symptoms. Amazingly, most people with chlamydia don’t know they have it unless they take an STD test to screen for it.

But the fact remains: You got chlamydia. Now what? You might need to inform your sexual partner(s), because if you have chlamydia, anyone you’ve had sex with lately could have it too. To ensure that their patients’ sexual partners also receive treatment for chlamydia, many health care providers practice expedited partner therapy, in which they give their patients extra courses of antibiotics to take home to their sexual partners. Alternately, a health care provider might write a prescription for their patient’s partner(s) without evaluating him or her. Because the likelihood that a sexual partner of someone with chlamydia also has chlamydia is so high, and because an infected partner can reinfect you after you’ve finished your treatment, offering expedited partner therapy is an easy and efficient way of making sure that all partners are treated at the same time.

You should still encourage your partner(s) to be evaluated for other STDs, but expedited partner therapy has been shown to be the most effective way of ensuring that a patient with chlamydia is not reinfected. Unfortunately, many people don’t seek testing for STDs, perhaps due to a lack of financial resources, a sense of embarrassment or fear, or feeling that they are too busy to fit STD testing into their schedules.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends treating chlamydia with a single dose of azithromycin or a week-long regimen of doxycycline. For instance, when practicing expedited partner therapy, your health care provider might give you a dose of azithromycin on the spot — and give you an extra pill to deliver to your partner.

You and your partner(s) should abstain from sex for seven days after completing treatment, to ensure that you aren’t reinfected. For example, if you and your partner(s) take a single dose of azithromycin, you can have sex as soon as one week later. If you and your partner(s) are taking the seven-day course of doxycycline, you can start having sex as soon as one week after finishing your treatment (two weeks after starting your treatment). Three months after treatment, it is recommended that you be retested, to confirm that you haven’t been reinfected. At this time, you might encourage your partner(s) to get tested with you!

Untreated chlamydia can have serious consequences, which is why so many states make it legal for a health care provider to prescribe extra antibiotics for a patient’s sexual partner(s), even without examining and testing the partner(s) first. When chlamydia spreads along the female reproductive tract, it can cause pelvic inflammatory disease, which can severely compromise fertility and cause chronic pain. Rarely, in a male reproductive tract, it can cause epididymitis, which can also lead to fertility problems and pain. For these reasons, it’s very important for sexually active people to be regularly tested, even when they have no symptoms, and especially when they have new partners or believe that their partners may have been exposed.

Chlamydia testing can be obtained at any Planned Parenthood health center, and if you test positive it can be cured with antibiotics. To further protect yourself, grab a handful of condoms, which are plentiful at our health centers.

If you’re diagnosed with chlamydia, Planned Parenthood Arizona can provide you with extra antibiotics for your partner or partners to ensure that he, she, or they receive treatment. We just need the name and birth date of any partner for whom you will be obtaining antibiotics. Not in Arizona? Twenty-eight states, plus the District of Columbia, allow expedited partner therapy for chlamydia, while some other states also have laws permitting the use of expedited partner therapy in certain situations. If you’re unsure about the laws in your state, you can call your local Planned Parenthood health center or another health-care provider to find out.