HIV is a serious STI for which separate prevention and care systems have developed. While it is not on HIV programs alone to solve the STI crisis, these programs have the capacity and can to do more to contribute to a stronger public health response in the face of increasing STI rates. The brief identifies three areas where HIV programs can support STI prevention and control:
HIV prevention and care programs need to conduct more STI screenings;
HIV and STI programs can jointly adopt best practices for promoting sexual health; and
HIV surveillance and research initiatives need to strengthen the STI response.
For each of these areas, the brief outlines specific actions for impact. For example, with respect to conducting more STI screenings, we recommend that CDC review its guidance for all programs funding HIV screening and explore options to ensure that HIV funds can be used to pay for recommended STI screening as part of an integrated HIV-STI testing encounter. We also call for CDC to work with other public and private entities to ensure that quality measures (i.e. HEDIS measures and National Quality Forum measures) and United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommendations are aligned with CDC guidelines.
To facilitate best practices for sexual health promotion, our recommendations include the Department of Health and Human Services funding major social media campaigns and public-private partnerships to further destigmatize marginalized populations seeking sexual health services and to better inform the public of the consequences of untreated STIs in non-stigmatizing ways. Promoting greater support across the country for age-appropriate, medically-accurate and LGBT-affirming sexual health education in school settings also is important. Additionally, research is critical to addressing STIs. As such, we call for existing HIV surveillance and research programs to do more to improve understanding of STI transmission dynamics.
While great strides have been made in promoting the health of people living with HIV and preventing new HIV infections, more can be done to enhance STI prevention, screening, and treatment. By taking deliberate steps to better align their programs and services, HIV and STI programs can strengthen the public health response to STIs.
The views reflected in this expert column are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily represent those of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law or Georgetown University. This blog is solely informational in nature, and not intended as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed and retained attorney in your state or country.