Honolulu Civil Beat (04.02.13)
The state legislature of Hawaii is close to passing Senate Bill 655, which would allow physicians to prescribe antibiotics to the sexual partners of heterosexuals diagnosed with chlamydia, even if the partner declines a doctor’s exam (expedited partner therapy). As originally introduced by Sen. Josh Green (D-District 3), who is also an emergency room physician, the bill allowed doctors to prescribe expedited partner therapy for all residents of Hawaii. However, the Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee revised the bill to apply only to heterosexuals, based on a 2006 CDC report that recommended expedited partner therapy for same-sex couples “only as a last resort.”
There are not enough studies of the effectiveness of expedited partner therapy for same-sex couples to recommend the practice, according to the CDC study. Treatment for heterosexual partners consists of oral medications, whereas CDC recommends an injection for treatment for homosexuals with chlamydia. Green stated that physicians would not give out syringes and injectable medications for same-sex expedited partner therapy.
In spite of CDC’s 2006 statement, expedited partner therapy has become increasingly prevalent across the United States; 32 states allow the practice, and it is potentially permissible in 11 other states. Expedited partner therapy is still a gray area in Hawaii state law; passage of Senate Bill 655 would clarify legality of the practice for physicians. Planned Parenthood of Hawaii supports passage of the bill.
The Democratic Party of Hawaii’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Caucus will ask for an amendment eliminating the heterosexual restriction, according to spokesperson Jo-Ann Adams. CDC’s most recent data ranks Hawaii 22nd in the United States for chlamydia rates. Most of Hawaii’s cases occur among people ages 15 to 24. Chlamydia is more prevalent among Hawaiian women.
Hawaii’s House Consumer Protection and Judiciary committees plan to hear Senate Bill 655 next Monday, April 8.