Sexually Transmitted Diseases Treatment Guidelines, 2006

Kimberly A. Workowski, MD; Stuart M. Berman, MD


Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 2006;55(30):1-94. 

In This Article

Special Populations

Intrauterine or perinatally transmitted STDs can have severely debilitating effects on pregnant women, their partners, and their fetuses. All pregnant women and their sex partners should be asked about STDs, counseled about the possibility of perinatal infections, and ensured access to treatment, if needed.

Recommended Screening Tests

  • All pregnant women in the United States should be tested for HIV infection as early in pregnancy as possible. Testing should be conducted after the woman is notified that she will be tested for HIV as part of the routine panel of prenatal tests, unless she declines the test (i.e., opt-out screening). For women who decline HIV testing, providers should address their objections, and where appropriate, continue to strongly encourage testing. Women who decline testing because they have had a previous negative HIV test should be informed of the importance of retesting during each pregnancy. Testing pregnant women is vital not only to maintain the health of the patient but also because interventions (i.e., antiretroviral and obstetrical) are available that can reduce perinatal transmission of HIV. Retesting in the third trimester (i.e., preferably before 36 weeks' gestation) is recommended for women at high risk for acquiring HIV infection (i.e., women who use illicit drugs, have STDs during pregnancy, have multiple sex partners during pregnancy, or have HIV-infected partners). Rapid HIV testing should be performed on women in labor with undocumented HIV status. If a rapid HIV test result is positive, antiretroviral prophylaxis (with consent) should be administered without waiting for the results of the confirmatory test.

  • A serologic test for syphilis should be performed on all pregnant women at the first prenatal visit. In populations in which use of prenatal care is not optimal, rapid plasma reagin (RPR) card test screening (and treatment, if that test is reactive) should be performed at the time a pregnancy is confirmed. Women who are at high risk for syphilis, live in areas of high syphilis morbidity, are previously untested, or have positive serology in the first trimester should be screened again early in the third trimester (28 weeks' gestation) and at delivery. Some states require all women to be screened at delivery. Infants should not be discharged from the hospital unless the syphilis serologic status of the mother has been determined at least one time during pregnancy and preferably again at delivery. Any woman who delivers a stillborn infant should be tested for syphilis.

  • All pregnant women should be routinely tested for hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) during an early prenatal visit (e.g., first trimester) in each pregnancy, even if they have been previously vaccinated or tested. Women who were not screened prenatally, those who engage in behaviors that put them at high risk for infection (e.g., more than one sex partner in the previous 6 months, evaluation or treatment for an STD, recent or current injecting-drug use, and HBsAg-positive sex partner), and those with clinical hepatitis should be retested at the time of admission to the hospital for delivery. Women at risk for HBV infection also should be vaccinated. To avoid misinterpreting a transient positive HBsAg result during the 21 days after vaccination, HBsAg testing should be performed before the vaccination.

  • All laboratories that conduct HBsAg tests should use an HBsAg test that is FDA-cleared and should perform testing according to the manufacturer's labeling, including testing of initially reactive specimens with a licensed neutralizing confirmatory test. When pregnant women are tested for HBsAg at the time of admission for delivery, shortened testing protocols may be used, and initially reactive results should prompt expedited administration of immunoprophylaxis to infants.

  • All pregnant women should be routinely tested for Chlamydia trachomatis (see Chlamydia Infections, Diagnostic Considerations) at the first prenatal visit. Women aged <25 years and those at increased risk for chlamydia (i.e., women who have a new or more than one sex partner) also should be retested during the third trimester to prevent maternal postnatal complications and chlamydial infection in the infant. Screening during the first trimester might prevent the adverse effects of chlamydia during pregnancy, but supportive evidence for this is lacking. If screening is performed only during the first trimester, a longer period exists for acquiring infection before delivery.

  • All pregnant women at risk for gonorrhea or living in an area in which the prevalence of Neisseria gonorrhoeae is high should be tested at the first prenatal visit for N. gonorrhoeae. (See Gonococcal Infections, Diagnostic Considerations). A repeat test should be performed during the third trimester for those at continued risk.

  • All pregnant women at high risk for hepatitis C infection should be tested for hepatitis C antibodies (see Hepatitis C, Diagnostic Considerations) at the first prenatal visit. Women at high risk include those with a history of injecting-drug use and those with a history of blood transfusion or organ transplantion before 1992.

  • Evaluation for bacterial vaginosis (BV) might be conducted during the first prenatal visit for asymptomatic patients who are at high risk for preterm labor (e.g., those who have a history of a previous preterm delivery). Evidence does not support routine testing for BV.

  • A Papanicolaou (Pap) smear should be obtained at the first prenatal visit if none has been documented during the preceding year.

Other Concerns

  • Women who are HBsAg positive should be reported to the local and/or state health department to ensure that they are entered into a case-management system and that timely and appropriate prophylaxis is provided for their infants. Information concerning the pregnant woman's HBsAg status should be provided to the hospital in which delivery is planned and to the health-care provider who will care for the newborn. In addition, household and sex contacts of women who are HBsAg positive should be vaccinated.

  • Women who are HBsAg positive should be provided with, or referred for, appropriate counseling and medical management. Pregnant women who are HBsAg positive pregnant women should receive information regarding hepatitis B that addresses
    --- modes of transmission;
    --- perinatal concerns (e.g., breastfeeding is not contraindicated);
    --- prevention of HBV transmission, including the importance of postexposure prophylaxis for the newborn infant and hepatitis B vaccination for household contacts and sex partners; and
    --- evaluation for and treatment of chronic HBV infection.

  • No treatment is available for HCV-infected pregnant women. However, all women with HCV infection should receive appropriate counseling and supportive care as needed (see Hepatitis C, Prevention). No vaccine is available to prevent HCV transmission.

  • In the absence of lesions during the third trimester, routine serial cultures for HSV are not indicated for women who have a history of recurrent genital herpes. Prophylactic cesarean section is not indicated for women who do not have active genital lesions at the time of delivery. In addition, insufficient evidence exists to recommend routine HSV-2 serologic screening among previously undiagnosed women during pregnancy, nor does sufficient evidence exist to recommend routine antiviral suppressive therapy late in gestation for all HSV-2 positive women.

  • The presence of genital warts is not an indication for cesarean section.

  • Not enough evidence exists to recommend routine screening for Trichomonas vaginalis in asymptomatic pregnant women.

For a more detailed discussion of STD testing and treatment among pregnant women and other infections not transmitted sexually, refer to the following references: Guide to Clinical Preventive Services;[29]Guidelines for Perinatal Care;[30]ACOG Practice Bulletin: Prophylatic Antibiotics in Labor and Delivery;[31]ACOG Committee Opinion: Primary and Preventive Care: Periodic Assessments;[32]Recommendations for the Prevention and Management of Chlamydia trachomatis Infections[33]; Hepatitis B Virus: A Comprehensive Strategy for Eliminating Transmission in the United States---Recommendations of the Immunization Practices Advisory Committee (ACIP)[2,4]; Mother-To-Infant Transmission of Hepatitis C Virus;[34]Hepatitis C: Screening in Pregnancy;[35]American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) Educational Bulletin: Viral Hepatitis in Pregnancy;[36]Revised Public Health Service Recommendations for HIV Screening of Pregnant Women;[37]Prenatal and Perinatal Human Immunodeficiency Virus Testing: Expanded Recommendations[38]; US Preventative Task Force HIV Screening Guidelines[39]; Rapid HIV Antibody Testing During Labor and Delivery for Women of Unknown HIV Status: A Practical Guide and Model Protocol;[40] and Sexually Transmitted Diseases in Adolescents.[41]

These sources are not entirely consistent in their recommendations. For example, the Guide to Clinical Preventive Services recommends screening of patients at high risk for chlamydia but indicates that the optimal timing for screening is uncertain. The Guidelines for Perinatal Care recommends that pregnant women at high risk for chlamydia be screened for infection during the first prenatal care visit and during the third trimester. Recommendations to screen pregnant women for STDs are based on disease severity and sequelae, prevalence in the population, costs, medicolegal considerations (e.g., state laws), and other factors. The screening recommendations in this report are broader (i.e., if followed, more women will be screened for more STDs than would be screened by following other recommendations) and are compatible with other CDC guidelines.

The rates of many STDs are highest among adolescents. For example, the reported rates of chlamydia and gonorrhea are highest among females aged 15--19 years, and many persons acquire HPV infection during their adolescent years. Among adolescents with acute HBV infection, the most commonly reported risk factors are having sexual contact with a chronically infected person or with multiple sex partners, or reporting their sexual preference as homosexual. As part of a comprehensive strategy to eliminate HBV transmission in the United States, ACIP has recommended that all children and adolescents be administered HBV vaccine.[2]

Younger adolescents (i.e., persons aged <15 years) who are sexually active are at particular risk for STDs, especially youth in detention facilities, STD clinic patients, male homosexuals, and injecting-drug users (IDUs). Adolescents are at higher risk for STDs because they frequently have unprotected intercourse, are biologically more susceptible to infection, are engaged in sexual partnerships frequently of limited duration, and face multiple obstacles to using health care. Several of these issues can be addressed by clinicians who provide services to adolescents. Clinicians can address adolescents' lack of knowledge and awareness regarding the risks and consequences of STDs by offering guidance concerning healthy sexual behavior and, therefore, prevent the establishment of patterns of behavior that can undermine sexual health.

With a few exceptions, all adolescents in the United States can legally consent to the confidential diagnosis and treatment of STDs. In all 50 states and the District of Columbia, medical care for STDs can be provided to adolescents without parental consent or knowledge. In addition, in the majority of states, adolescents can consent to HIV counseling and testing. Consent laws for vaccination of adolescents differ by state. Several states consider provision of vaccine similar to treatment of STDs and provide vaccination services without parental consent. Because of the crucial importance of confidentially, health-care providers should follow policies that provide confidentiality and comply with state laws for STD services.

Despite the prevalence of STDs among adolescents, providers frequently fail to inquire about sexual behavior, assess risk for STDs, provide counseling on risk reduction, and screen for asymptomatic infection during clinical encounters. The style and content of counseling and health education on these sensitive subjects should be adapted for adolescents. Discussions should be appropriate for the patient's developmental level and should be aimed at identifying risky behaviors (e.g., sex and drug-use behaviors). Careful, nonjudgmental, and thorough counseling are particularly vital for adolescents who might not acknowledge that they engage in high-risk behaviors.

Management of children who have STDs requires close cooperation between clinicians, laboratorians, and child-protection authorities. Official investigations, when indicated, should be initiated promptly. Some diseases (e.g., gonorrhea, syphilis, and chlamydia), if acquired after the neonatal period, are virtually 100% indicative of sexual contact. For other diseases (e.g., HPV infection and vaginitis), the association with sexual contact is not as clear (see Sexual Assault and STDs).

Some MSM are at high risk for HIV infection and other viral and bacterial STDs. The frequency of unsafe sexual practices and the reported rates of bacterial STDs and incident HIV infection have declined substantially in MSM from the 1980s through the mid-1990s. However, during the previous 10 years, increased rates of infectious syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydial infection and of higher rates of unsafe sexual behaviors have been documented among MSM in the United States and virtually all industrialized countries. The effect of these behavioral changes on HIV transmission has not been ascertained, but preliminary data suggest that the incidence of HIV infection might be increasing among some MSM. These adverse trends probably are related to changing attitudes concerning HIV infection because of the effects of improved HIV/AIDS therapy on quality of life and survival, changing patterns of substance abuse, demographic shifts in MSM populations, and changes in sex partner networks resulting from new venues for partner acquisition.

Clinicians should assess the risks of STDs for all male patients, including a routine inquiry about the sex of patients' sex partners. MSM, including those with HIV infection, should routinely undergo nonjudgmental STD/HIV risk assessment and client-centered prevention counseling to reduce the likelihood of acquiring or transmitting HIV or other STDs. Clinicians should be familiar with local community resources available to assist MSM at high risk in facilitating behavioral change. Clinicians also should routinely ask sexually active MSM about symptoms consistent with common STDs, including urethral discharge, dysuria, genital and perianal ulcers, regional lymphadenopathy, skin rash, and anorectal symptoms consistent with proctitis. Clinicians also should maintain a low threshold for diagnostic testing of symptomatic patients.

Routine laboratory screening for common STDs is indicated for all sexually active MSM. The following screening recommendations are based on preliminary data.[42,43] These tests should be performed at least annually for sexually active MSM, including men with or without established HIV infection:

  • HIV serology, if HIV negative or not tested within the previous year;

  • syphilis serology;

  • a test for urethral infection with N. gonorrhoeae and C. trachomatis in men who have had insertive intercourse* during the preceding year;

  • a test for rectal infection† with N. gonorrhoeae and C. trachomatis in men who have had receptive anal intercourse* during the preceding year;

  • a test for pharyngeal infection† with N. gonorrhoeae in men who have acknowledged participation in receptive oral intercourse* during the preceding year; testing for C. trachomatis pharyngeal infection is not recommended.

In addition, some specialists would consider type-specific serologic tests for HSV-2, if infection status is unknown. Routine testing for anal cytologic abnormalities or anal HPV infection is not recommended until more data are available on the reliability of screening methods, the safety of and response to treatment, and programmatic considerations.

More frequent STD screening (i.e., at 3--6 month intervals) is indicated for MSM who have multiple or anonymous partners, have sex in conjunction with illicit drug use, use methamphetamine, or whose sex partners participate in these activities.

Vaccination against hepatitis A and B is recommended for all MSM in whom previous infection or immunization cannot be documented. Preimmunization serologic testing might be considered to reduce the cost of vaccinating MSM who are already immune to these infections, but this testing should not be delay vaccination. Vaccinating persons who are immune to HAV or HBV infection because of previous infection or vaccination does not increase the risk for vaccine-related adverse events (see Hepatitis B, Prevaccination Antibody Screening).

Few data are available on the risk of STDs conferred by sex between women, but transmission risk probably varies by the specific STD and sexual practice (e.g., oral-genital sex, vaginal or anal sex using hands, fingers, or penetrative sex items, and oral-anal sex).[44,45] Practices involving digital-vaginal or digital-anal contact, particularly with shared penetrative sex items, present a possible means for transmission of infected cervicovaginal secretions. This possibility is most directly supported by reports of metronidazole-resistant trichomoniasis and genotype-concordant HIV transmitted sexually between women who reported these behaviors and by the high prevalence of BV among monogamous WSW. Transmission of HPV can occur with skin-to-skin or skin-to-mucosa contact, which can occur during sex between women. HPV deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) has been detected through polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based methods from the cervix, vagina, and vulva in 13%--30% of WSW, and high- and low-grade squamous intraepithelial lesions (SIL) have been detected on Pap tests in WSW who reported no previous sex with men.[46] However, the majority of self-identified WSW (53%--99%) have had sex with men and might continue this practice.[47] Therefore, all women should undergo Pap test screening using current national guidelines, regardless of sexual preference or sexual practices.

HSV-2 genital transmission between female sex partners is probably inefficient, but the relatively frequent practice of orogenital sex among WSW might place them at higher risk for genital infection with HSV-1. This hypothesis is supported by the recognized association between HSV-1 seropositivity and previous number of female partners among WSW. Transmission of syphilis between female sex partners, probably through oral sex, has been reported. Although the rate of transmission of C. trachomatis between women is unknown, WSW who also have sex with men are at risk and should undergo routine screening according to guidelines.


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