Why It Matters

Acquiring any sexually transmitted infection (STI) increases the likelihood of HIV acquisition. Therefore, prompt diagnosis and complete treatment of people with STIs is very important. This prevents the long-term health consequences of STIs and reduces the risk of acquiring HIV or other STIs.

 

Given how common STIs other than HIV currently are, we cannot stop HIV in Iowa unless STIs are reduced.

 

Where We Stand Today 

There is substantial overlap in populations at increased risk of acquiring HIV and those at increased risk of other STIs. Co-infection is common. It is also common for people to acquire an STI and later acquire HIV. In 2020, 38% of Iowan’s newly diagnosed with HIV were co-infected with another STI within the same year. 

 

Bacterial STIs, like chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis, are more common than HIV. The opportunity exists to increase HIV testing among individuals who present for STI testing, as well as offering HIV prevention strategies for those who test negative for HIV.

 

STIs are at all time highs in Iowa with gonorrhea more than doubling in the state in 5 years and syphilis increasing by more than 75% in the past year.

What We're Doing Now

STI Testing

Community-Based Screening Services

Community-Based Screening Services (CBSS) are a safety net program to provide chlamydia and gonorrhea testing. Syphilis, HIV, hepatitis, and herpes testing are also available. 

CBSS primarily provides services to individuals that are uninsured, underinsured, or seek confidential services.

There are 60 CBSS sites located throughout the state of Iowa. They include family planning, local health departments, corrections, drug treatment, and student health centers. 

CBSS sites provide an average of 30,000 tests each year!

STI Treatment

IDPH Treatment Medications Program

This program provides free medications to safety net providers for patients diagnosed with chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis, as well as their sexual partners.

Approximately 13,000 doses of these medications are provided each year.

Expedited Partner Therapy

 

Expedited Partner Therapy (EPT) is the practice of treating partners of people diagnosed with chlamydia or gonorrhea without first examining the partners.

 

Additional medications are given to the patient to deliver to their partners and thereby reducing re-infections.

 

In 2020, more than 1,400 doses of medication were given for EPT through safety net clinics.

Partner Services

 

Disease Intervention Specialists (DIS) work directly with persons diagnosed or at risk of acquiring HIV and other STIs.

The goals of DIS include:

  • Ensure connection to medical and other services

  • Conduct risk reduction counseling

  • Confidentially notify sex and needle-sharing partners of exposure and refer for testing and treatment.

 

Work with clinicians and other community partners

 

DIS work directly with medical providers and other community partners. They provide testing and treatment recommendations as well as information on other best practices. Additionally, DIS provide guidance and assistance related to reporting to the IDPH. 

Gaps, Barriers, & Challenges

Gaps
  • STI screening and testing guidelines are not widely followed.

  • Providers are not discussing patient’s complete sexual histories.

 

Barriers & Challenges
  • Concurrent/comprehensive testing. HIV, syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea are all primarily transmitted via sex, yet testing for these conditions is often thought of and conducted separately (e.g., some are tested for and not others).

  • Concerns about who will pay for this testing often overrides the public health good.

  • Free or reduced cost STI testing and treatment is not widely available.

Systemic & Societal Challenges

Social determinants of health

 

STIs are often not a person’s top concern. There may be issues or situations in someone's life that need more immediate attention. These include other health issues (like drug use or mental health), housing, transportation, incarceration, and/or language barriers.  

 

Stigma around STIs

Stigma related to STIs is present in both the general public and among health providers

  • Some providers expressing their patients don’t get STIs, despite being sexually active

 

Perceptions that people who get STIs are “dirty”

  • Currently, folks are not empowered to seek regular testing. People should be praised for being proactive about their health (and public health), not mocked or vilified.

  • It's very uncommon for individuals to disclose they’ve had an STI, for fear of judgment.

 
 
 

To stop HIV in Iowa by 2030, this focus area must:

  • Increase HIV testing among individuals already presenting for STI testing. 
     

  • Increase access to fast, free, and convenient testing and treatment options.
     

  • Improve provider best practices related to sexual history taking.
     

  • Improve provider best practices related to testing and treatment.
     

  • Engage with and learn from disproportionately impacted and other prioritized communities to inform our larger direction and strategies.
     

  • Address STI stigma.

 

Process for Community Engagement 

Engagement Focus

This focus area will work with partners across the state to understand barriers related to addressing STIs and define potential improvement opportunities.

 

What we learn will inform and support our work towards the following goals:

STI testing and treatment
Diagnose & treat persons for STIs earlier

To help reduce transmission and improve health outcomes.

Contact tracing.png
Expand Disease Intervention Specialist (DIS) infrastructure

To ensure persons diagnosed with or exposed to HIV and other STIs are equipped to navigate the health system and receive recommended care.

Condoms
Decrease transmission of STIs, including HIV

To improve individuals' sexual health and prevent the negative outcomes associated with untreated infection.

Gathering Feedback

This focus area will seek input from the following stakeholders and communities. A variety of methods will be used to collect input, including surveys, key informant interviews, and focus groups. A concerted effort will be made to include both rural and urban populations. 

 

  • Medical Providers

    • Urgent care & Emergency Department 

    • Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC)
       

  • Key populations

    • LGBTQ+ individuals

    • Adolescents & young adults

    • Black populations

    • Indigenous populations​

 

Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

National Coalition of STD Directors

National Coalition for Sexual Health

Does an STI Diagnosis Spur Subsequent HIV Testing Among Adolescents?

The American Journal of Managed Care, 2020

Young man talk with his doctor about sexual health