Rules Shift for STD Treatment in Arkansas: Doctors Can Write Prescriptions for Patients' Sexual Partners

Arkansas has now become the 32nd state to allow expedited partner therapy, meaning physicians statewide can write prescriptions to treat the partners of heterosexual STD patients without examining them. CDC, which tracks EPT among states, says 12 other states have ambiguous statutes while six prohibit the practice.

In 2010, federal data show Arkansas ranked sixth among states for per-capita gonorrhea cases and seventh for per-capita chlamydia cases. Department of Health officials believe EPT could halve infection rates of the two STDs, which usually can be treated by a single dose of antibiotics. "It stops the snowball of communicable diseases," said Randy Lee, director of DOH's Center for Local Public Health.

Of the 8,300 patients treated at the state's county offices for chlamydia in 2010, only 38 percent of those patients' partners later sought testing and treatment for themselves, said Lee. "Re-infections happen when you treat one without treating the other," he said.

However, the state will not permit EPT for the partners of male homosexuals without an office visit because of the higher risk of co-infection with HIV or syphilis, according to a recent DOH advisory.