Hard Call: Your Girlfriend Has Chlamydia, May I Phone In Your Prescription?

(tbone_sandwich/Flickr Creative Commons via Compfight)

(tbone_sandwich/Flickr Creative Commons via Compfight)

By Dr. Myechia Minter-Jordan
Guest contributor

Eighteen-year-old Eva had recently had unprotected sex with her boyfriend and came into my office for an urgent appointment to get “checked out.”

While I performed my usual cervical exam and testing, I used my 20-minute visit to talk with Eva (not her real name) about self-empowerment and the importance of protecting herself from disease: 
“I am really glad that you’re here with me today. This is an important first step in taking charge of your health and learning how to take care of yourself…”

The next day I found out that unfortunately, Eva had contracted chlamydia, the most common sexually transmitted disease in the country and the state. My next moves were clear: The job of informing my young patient of her infection is one that I am used to, but never look forward to. What is even less comfortable is the task of informing and treating the partner, an individual who is most likely not my patient, and with whom I do not have a relationship.

However, because of state legislation passed in 2011, I now have the ability to prescribe or dispense antibiotics to treat chlamydia in the sex partner of patients with diagnosed infection. “Expedited Partner Therapy” does not require a provider to examine the partner prior to treatment. Research studies have shown that the treatment is safe and effective in reducing chlamydia infection compared to the traditional practice of just notifying — but not treating — the partner. Additionally, in several other states that have Partner Therapy programs, there have been no reports of adverse events.

Eva and I made this difficult call together. We weathered the denial, shock and anger from her boyfriend. It took a minute to shift the conversation from blame to education, then learning and most importantly, assurance. I assured Eva’s boyfriend that this disease was treatable and this was an opportunity to get treatment and get better.

Yes, such calls are hard, but necessary. Over the last ten years, cases of chlamydia in Massachusetts have more than doubled from 8,725 in 1999 to 18,811 in 2009, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

This disease is overwhelmingly a scourge of the young. Continue reading