On Wednesday, July 19, 2023, the Indian Health Service (IHS) released a Dear Tribal Leader Letter to provide an update on how IHS plans to address the current syphilis epidemic affecting American Indian and Alaska Natives (AI/AN) communities.
To address the syphilis epidemic, IHS Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Loretta Christensen, recommended the following guidelines and resources for all IHS, Tribal, and Urban Indian Organizations:
- Annual syphilis testing for persons aged 13 to 64 to eliminate syphilis transmission by early case recognition.
- Turn on the annual Electronic Health Record reminder at all sites to facilitate testing for two years or until incidence rates decrease locally to baseline.
- Three-point syphilis testing for all pregnant people at the first prenatal visit, beginning of the third trimester, and delivery.
- Adoption of a sexually transmitted infection (STI)/human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)/Viral hepatitis testing bundle at all sites to screen broadly.
- Adoption of "Express STI Testing." Express STI services refer to triage-based STI testing without needing a full clinical exam.
- Enhance screening rates by screening outside of hospitals and clinics.
- Provide field treatment for syphilis for high-risk adults diagnosed with syphilis and their partners. Public health nurses (PHNs) could provide treatment with Benzathine Penicillin. The Express STI Services Toolkit includes policy examples.
- Presumptive treatment of syphilis for anyone having signs or symptoms of syphilis or with known exposure to syphilis.
- Create and build awareness and encourage people to get tested and treated. There is a new AI/AN-specific national campaign called STOP SYPHILIS.
To read the full letter, click here.
Please do not hesitate to contact Caitrin Shuy, Director of Government Relations (email@example.com), or Audrianna Marzette (firstname.lastname@example.org), Infectious Disease Program Manager, with any questions.