Study shows primary care access to decrease STIs among women

The number of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) continues to result in significant healthcare costs for the US system. In addition, STIs can often lead to other healthcare issues for patients and, if not caught early enough, can be spread to others unknowingly. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released the following data for new cases of each STI known to occur in 2015:

  • Number of new syphilis cases: 74,702
  • Number of new chlamydia cases: 1,526,658
  • Number of new gonorrhea cases: 395,216

A study recently published in Sexually Transmitted Diseases found that the rate of STIs among women actually decreases when those women have access to primary care services. The group conducting the study collected data on 666 women living in southern states in the US. They focused on data around the women’s HIV-seropositive and HIV-seronegative status.

The researchers in the study, including Danielle F. Haley, PhD, MPH, of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases, found that “70% of the participants were HIV-seropositive, and 11% had an STI. A four-unit increase in the percentage of participants with a primary care provider yielded a 39% lower risk for STIs.”

Primary care physicians who provide regular screening services can help reduce the number of STIs among their patients. The study found that those women who did not have access to primary care, even if they had lower risk factors, experienced a higher rate of STIs.

Collaboration with other physicians may also be necessary to fully treat STIs and other conditions caused by STIs, but the diagnosis can happen during the primary care physician visit. Recognizing that independent physicians may need some guidance in speaking to their patients about STIs, the National Coalition for Sexual Health recently published Sexual Health and Your Patients: A Provider’s Guide, as an educational guide for physicians and their patients.