28 Aug USPSTF Recommends Behavioral Counseling for Teens and Adults at Risk of STIs
MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Melissa A. Simon, M.D., M.P.H.
George H. Gardner Professor of Clinical Gynecology
Vice Chair of Clinical Research
Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology
Professor of Preventive Medicine and Medical Social Sciences
Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Response: Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are on the rise across the country, with approximately 20 million new cases in the U.S. each year. If untreated, STIs can lead to serious health complications including infertility, AIDS, and cancer.
The good news is that effective behavioral counseling has the potential to reduce STI rates by approximately a third. The Task Force continues to recommend behavioral counseling for all sexually active teens and for adults who are at increased risk for STIs.
MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?
Response: The most important takeaway from this recommendation is that clinicians can make a real difference by providing behavioral counseling to all sexually active teens and to adults who are at increased risk for STIs. If provided widely, these interventions have the potential to significantly reduce STI rates in the U.S. Through this recommendation, we hope more clinicians will understand the benefits of behavioral counseling interventions and provide or refer their patients to these services.
Effective behavioral counseling can take less than 30 minutes and includes a broad range of methods including in-person counseling, telephone support, written materials, videos, websites, and/or email and text messages. Ultimately, counseling provides basic information about STIs, assesses individual risk, communicates about safer sex, and increases commitment to safer sex practices.
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?
Response: More research is needed to better understand the effects of interventions to prevent STIs in a wider range of people, including sexually active teen boys; pregnant teens and adults; gay, lesbian, bisexual, nonbinary, or transgender people; teens who are not yet sexually active; and older adults at increased risk for STIs.
The Task Force is also calling on the research community for help better understanding the role of social determinants of health in contributing to STI rates, as well as the effects of interventions that take less than 30 minutes or use alternate formats, such as telemedicine.
Until these gaps are filled, clinicians should continue to use their best judgment, listen to the needs of the populations they serve, and ensure that they are providing behavioral counseling about STIs to everyone who can benefit from it.
MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Response: STIs are very common in young people, and about half of all new STI cases occur in people ages 15-24. We know that clinicians can help prevent STIs though behavioral counseling, which is why the Task Force recommends these preventive services for all sexually active teens.
It is important to note that there is not enough evidence to know whether providing counseling to teens who have not yet had sex helps prevent STIs, and clinicians should continue to use their own clinical judgment to decide how best to address STI prevention with their patients who are not yet sexually active.
US Preventive Services Task Force. Behavioral Counseling Interventions to Prevent Sexually Transmitted Infections: US Preventive Services Task Force Recommendation Statement. JAMA. 2020;324(7):674–681. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.13095
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