When you have an STD infection for gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis or trichomoniasis, a doctor might prescribe an antibiotic that you can take to cure the infection. About two weeks later, after you’ve finished treatment and you have no more symptoms, some doctors recommend you get tested again to ensure you’re free of any STD infections.
Unfortunately, curing an STD infection doesn’t prevent you from getting infected again, and researchers estimate that up to 20 percent of gonorrhea, chlamydia and trichomoniasis cases are the result of reinfection from a sexual partner. When you receive treatment and your partner doesn’t, you can become reinfected almost immediately after you finish your antibiotics and have sex with your partner. If your partner then receives treatment for his STD infection but you don’t — because you just finished treatment — you can pass the disease back to your partner when he finishes his antibiotics. This begins a vicious cycle of passing an STD infection back and forth between you and your partner until you both get tested and get treatment at the same time.
Notifying Sexual Partners
When you test positive for a sexually-transmitted disease, it’s very important that you notify your sex partners so they can get tested and get treatment. Failure to do this jeopardizes the health of your partners and your own health because it could result in persistent infections of chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis and trichomoniasis. Since many people don’t experience any symptoms when they have an STD, someone exposed to a sexually-transmitted disease can infect other people without realizing it. If you don’t take steps to protect your anonymity when you have an STD screening, the health care professional is required by law to report your name, birth date, address and other personal information to the state health department. The state health department contacts each person individually by phone or by making a home visit to identify the person’s sexual partners so they can be notified about exposure to a disease.This is the preferred method of controlling the spread of an STD. However, many people are reluctant to identify their sexual partners, especially to a state government employee.
Expedited Partner Therapy
To help reduce the number of reinfections, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began a program called Expedited Partner Therapy. The EPT program provides two prescriptions of antibiotics to a patient: one for the patient and another for the patient’s partner. The patient’s partner doesn’t have to be identified or get an STD test to receive treatment for the disease his partner has contracted. After analyzing data from the results of the EPT program, the CDC concluded that EPT is an effective way to reduce the spread of sexually-transmitted diseases and prevent reinfection, especially for male partners of females who test positive for chlamydia, gonorrhea and trichominoasis. The CDC did not have sufficient data to evaluate EPT’s effectiveness among men who have sex with men.
Despite its effectiveness, the EPT program is controversial. As of June 2015, there are 38 states in which the EPT program is legal, and eight states in which it’s believed to be permissible considering current laws and regulations. Existing laws in four states — Florida, Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia — prohibit the EPT program. Some insurance companies are also opposed to the program, which could double the cost of a patient’s treatment.
Finishing Your Medicine
When a doctor prescribes antibiotics for you and your partner, it’s also very important that you take the medicine exactly as prescribed, and that you finish the medicine completely. Health care professionals are already worried about new strains of gonorrhea that are immune to the antibiotics we use to cure the disease today. One of the contributing factors to this acquired immunity is from people who stop taking their antibiotics when they feel better. If you don’t finish your medication, you might kill only the the gonorrhea bacteria that are most susceptible to antibiotic treatment and leave the bacteria that are more resistant to the treatment, leaving the resistant strains to further multiply. It’s a concept of evolution called natural selection, and sometimes referred to as survival of the fittest.