ANNAPOLIS – A novel Baltimore program intended to contain the spread of sexually transmitted diseases by allowing infected individuals to pass on medication to their sexual partners was approved by the General Assembly Thursday and is expected to be signed into law.
Advocates hope the program will curb the rates of sexually transmitted diseases by permitting individuals to receive medication from their partners without being seen or examined by health care workers.
The governor likes the bill and will approve the legislation when it hits his desk, said O’Malley’s spokesman Sasha Leonhardt.
“The governor is going to follow the advice of doctors and health care workers who have studied this issue,” he said.
The program comes as Baltimore’s rate of gonorrhea and chlamydia infections, according to the city health department, outpaces the national average. In 2005, there were 6,380 cases of chlamydia and 3,489 cases of gonorrhea.
“We still have high numbers of individuals contracting sexually transmitted diseases and the concern is if we don’t adopt measures to mitigate that, they will simply increase,” said Sen. Nathaniel J. McFadden, D-Baltimore, the bill’s sponsor.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the antibiotics used to treat gonorrhea and chlamydia, two diseases with high infection rates in the city, pose little risk to patients and no adverse events were reported during a trial phase.
Baltimore City Health Commissioner Joshua M. Sharfstein doesn’t expect the program to “wipe out” sexually transmitted diseases overnight, but he said it’s a “big step” in the right direction.” “For the patients that we see, I very much expect it to reduce their chances of being reinfected,” Sharfstein said.