May 14, 2009
The partners of Utahns diagnosed with an STD now have a way of getting treated anonymously without seeing a doctor.
A state law that went into effect Tuesday allows doctors to write antibiotic prescriptions for the unnamed partners of their patients with chlamydia and gonorrhea.
The law allows the program, called expedited partner therapy, to be implemented in various ways. Doctors are not required to provide the anonymous prescription. Local health departments are tailoring the program for their individual sites.
One of the more controversial issues is whether prescriptions should be written for youth under the age of 18. Existing law allows doctors to treat patients as young as 14 for STDs without parental consent, an option that is unchanged in the new statute, but officials express caution about doing so under expedited partner therapy.
"We'd be very concerned about providing antibiotics through this program to a minor," said Lewis Garrett, director of the Davis County Health Department.
The Salt Lake Valley Health Department will write extra prescriptions for patients who are 18 or older and ask if the partners are adults.
Restricting the prescriptions to legal adults is being done at the impetus of David Wilde, a Salt Lake County councilperson on the Salt Lake Valley Board of Health. "Because of the concern of the board of health, we made our own internal standing order and limited it to only 18 and above," health department Medical Director Dagmar Vitek said.
Officials at the Utah County Health Department are requiring patients to bring in partners' birth dates and names before it will release a prescription. On the other end of the spectrum, Weber-Morgan Health District will provide extra prescriptions for patients as young as 14. "It's so much more important for their partners to get treated than to just leave them hanging out there," said MaryLou Adams, the district's program manager.