Data shows that sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) have increased nationally in comparison to previous years. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) outlined the shift.

Overall, Minnesota sits in the middle of the data for many categories, but certain populations are still at a higher risk for STDs. Laura Miller, MD, MPH, a family medicine physician at M Physicians Broadway Family Medicine Clinic, recognized the importance of prevention and education regarding STDs in underserved populations.

“I’m a physician, but a big part of my job is educating in general. I’m working on ways to convey a message to my learners, like my students and residents, but also very much trying to align myself with my patients in where their knowledge gaps are."

Laura Miller, MD, MPH, Family Medicine Physician

Lapses in insurance coverage, or lack of coverage at all, can pose a significant challenge for individuals as they attempt to mitigate their symptoms and the spread of disease. 

“If they’re experiencing symptoms, a change in sexual partners or even just that their partners have a change while there’s a gap in care, it just takes one time and all of a sudden that individual can expose everyone they come into contact with,” Dr. Miller explained.

She says communication and education for patients in underserved communities are critical. Once an individual becomes a teenager or they begin exhibiting sexual behavior, physicians like Dr. Miller work to educate them on risk factors and potential outcomes. 

“We talk a lot about STDs and prevention,” she said. “We know that it’s a huge problem in this population, and we started paying more attention to it because we noted an increase in a few specific STDs—syphilis and chlamydia.”

The Broadway Family Medicine Clinic has taken initiative to ensure that patients and their sexual partners receive the medications they need. Previously, they received a grant to provide medication for everyone in contact with an infected individual. The grant expired, but an interdisciplinary team including physicians, pharmacists, nurses and clinic managers felt that it was important to continue the program, regardless of the cost.

Dr. Miller noted, “We make it incredibly easy for patients here to give treatments to their partners. It doesn’t necessarily mean it happens, but it’s our way of trying to reach more people than just the individual we’re seeing.”