April is STD Awareness Month, and this year’s theme is Syphilis Strikes Back. This final post in NACCHO’s STD Awareness Month blog series, which has highlighted some of the roles of local health departments (LHDs) in addressing syphilis among highly impacted populations, focuses on a NACCHO project supported by the Division of STD Prevention (DSTDP) at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
A significant challenge in addressing syphilis at the local level is providing opportunities for syphilis screening in nontraditional settings, as many populations impacted by the resurgence of syphilis may not present in typical clinical settings, such as health department STD clinics. One tool to potentially increase the reach of LHD STD programs is rapid syphilis testing (RST), which much like rapid HIV and hepatitis C testing, can be implemented in nonclinical settings and provides results quickly using a fingerstick blood sample.
In order to increase knowledge on implementing RST in nonclinical settings, and to evaluate the optimal settings for the use of RST, NACCHO, with the support of DSTDP, is providing funding and technical assistance to a diverse set of four LHDs to implement RST in a variety of nonclinical, nontraditional settings. These settings include bars, clubs, and events serving men who have sex with men (MSM); correctional facilities; historically black colleges and universities; and alongside partner services activities and outreach to homeless populations.
The project will evaluate the implementation of RST with the goals of identifying effective practices for the use of RST by LHD STD programs in their efforts to reach populations highly impacted by syphilis in nonclinical settings, and of understanding the outcomes, barriers, opportunities, and costs associated with the use of RST in those settings. Outcomes of the project will be shared broadly to inform the work of LHDs interested in integrating RST into similar programs and services in their jurisdictions.
The work of the project also aligns with the recently released CDC Call to Action: Let’s Work Together to Stem the Tide of Rising Syphilis in the United States, which encourages health departments to take steps to address growing rates of syphilis in their local jurisdictions. The Call to Action, released on April 26, highlights the vital roles health departments can play in reducing congenital syphilis and syphilis among MSM through surveillance; partnership with community providers, programs, and stakeholders; and enhanced screening (such as during partner services).
As this year’s STD Awareness Month comes to a close, NACCHO is pleased to support a project that enables local public health to continue the important work required to curb the rising syphilis rates. Stay tuned for more updates on our RST project and be sure to check out the previous posts in our STD Awareness Month Series: