3 STDs Spreading: How Pharmacists Can Help

Chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis are on the rise for the first time since 2006, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis are on the rise for the first time since 2006, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Pharmacists’ close and frequent contact with patients makes them ideal candidates to provide education and counseling to patients with sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and promote adherence to STD treatment.

Staci Pacetti, PharmD, Judith A. O’Donnell, MD, and Steven P. Gelone, PharmD, wrote in a previous issue of Pharmacy Times that pharmacists can promote prevention by providing education about condoms.

“Effective communication between the pharmacist and patients is essential in building a successful relationship,” they wrote. “This relationship allows for the delivery of prevention messages that are patient-specific, identifying behaviors that place patients at increased risk for STDs.”

Pharmacists can also inform patients about adverse effects associated with STD treatment and may also suggest abstinence while undergoing treatment.

In addition, pharmacists can be effective in improving STD treatment adherence by checking up with phone calls.

J. Dennis Fortenberry, MD, MS, chair of the American Sexual Health Association’s Board of Directors, recently told Pharmacy Times that an important focus for pharmacists is privacy when speaking with patients who are filling STD prescriptions.

Another counseling point is to encourage patients to use a medication schedule and take all of their medication as prescribed.

Here are the 3 STDs on the rise, according to 2014 figures from the CDC:

1.Chlamydia

There were around 1.4 million cases of chlamydia reported in 2014. This is a 2.8% increase from 2013 figures, according to the CDC.

2.Gonorrhea

There were 350,062 cases of gonorrhea reported in 2014—a 5.1% increase from 2013 figures.

3.Syphilis

In 2014, there were almost 20,000 cases of primary and secondary syphilis reported—a 15.1% increase from 2013 figures.

In addition, there were 458 cases of congenital syphilis reported. This marks an increase of 27.5% from 2013 figures.

More than 90% of primary and secondary syphilis cases affect men.

Untreated syphilis can lead to visual impairment and stroke, and it also places individuals at increased risk of HIV infection. Around half of men who have sex with men who have syphilis are also HIV-positive.

“A number of individual risk behaviors (such as higher numbers of lifetime sex partners), as well as environmental, social and cultural factors (such as higher prevalence of STDs or difficulty accessing quality health care) contribute to disparities in the sexual health of gay and bisexual men,” the CDC report stated.

One of the potential contributing factors is that lower-income gay and bisexual men may have trouble accessing and affording health care, according to the CDC.

The CDC noted that many STDs go unreported, so these figures are “only a fraction” of the number of cases in the United States.

Almost 20 million STDs occur each year in the country, leading to nearly $16 billion in health care costs. Half of these new STD cases affect individuals ages 15 to 24.

While both sexes are “heavily affected” by STDs, women are prone to more long-term health consequences like infertility.

The CDC recommends that sexually active women younger than 25 or those who have new or multiple sex partners should have annual chlamydia and gonorrhea tests. Pregnant women should also be screened for syphilis, HIV, chlamydia, and hepatitis B.

For gay and bisexual men, the CDC recommends tests for syphilis, chlamydia, gonorrhea, and HIV at least once a year.