Brief: Expedited Partner Therapy to Reduce STIs

Expedited Partner Therapy (EPT), a cost-effective policy for treatment of curable sexually transmitted diseases, is legal in 23 states. EPT is one approach to treating sexual partners of patients diagnosed with chlamydia or gonorrhea infections, where patients provide treatment directly to their partners.

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In almost half of the states, physicians can legally provide antibiotic treatment for the sexual partners of their patients diagnosed with chlamydia or gonorrhea infections, without ever seeing the partners. This cost-effective treatment approach is known as expedited partner therapy.

  • When patients are diagnosed with chlamydia or gonorrhea, they are counseled to take antibiotics, avoid re-infection and encourage their partners to be treated. Expedited partner therapy can be used when patients do not provide their sexual partners’ names for follow-up, or the partners will not obtain treatment due to access, coverage or confidentiality concerns.
  • The legal basis for expedited partner therapy varies from state to state, but is established through legislation, regulation or modification of state medical, nursing and pharmacy practice laws.
  • Expedited partner therapy is legally permitted in 23 states and Baltimore, Md., according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Eight states prohibit expedited partner therapy. Nineteen states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico don’t specifically prohibit the practice; therefore it is potentially allowed from a legal standpoint.
  • Public health officials endorse using expedited partner therapy to supplement traditional approaches of contacting and treating sexual partners. When permitted, state public health departments issue clinical care guidelines specifying the types of patients and antibiotics best suited for expedited partner therapy.When used appropriately, expedited partner therapy is more successful than traditional patient referral approaches in getting antibiotic treatment to sexual partners.
  • Expedited partner therapy is carried out by giving patients antibiotic medication, a prescription or directions to pharmacies or public health programs providing medications for their partners. The medication generally consists of a one-time dose of an antibiotic with a low potential for allergic and other adverse reactions, and is accompanied by written instructions on how to take the medication and how long to abstain from sex after treatment, as well as suggested medical professionals to contact.

Expedited partner therapy and annual testing are important public health tools to prevent the spread of chlamydia and gonorrhea, both curable infections.

  • The CDC estimates nearly 3 million people are newly infected with chlamydia each year, and about 700,000 Americans are infected with gonorrhea annually. Because these infectionsoften occur without symptoms, about half areundiagnosed.
  • If these curable infections remain untreated, severe consequences can develop. The CDC estimates that at least 24,000 American women become infertile from these infections each year. Chlamydia infections also may lead to premature delivery and infection in newborns, and increase a woman’s risk of contracting sexually transmitted HIV. CDC recommends annual testing for chlamydia and gonorrhea, but only about 40 percent of sexually active females enrolled in health plans were tested in 2007.
  • Accessible testing and treatment are critical to reducing the significant health disparities in gonorrhea and chlamydia. The infections occur more often among youth, and teenage girls account for about 25 percent of the five most common sexually transmitted infections. African-American women have much higher reported rates of these infections than white or Hispanic women, particularly for gonorrhea. Similar racial disparities exist among young males.

   Download the Table:  Expedited Partner Therapy Legal Status and Infection Rates in Women by Race/Ethnicity