Governor Signs SB 306 to Tackle STI Crisis

October 5, 2021

Sacramento, CA – Governor Gavin Newsom signed SB 306 into law which would strengthen California’s public health infrastructure and provide greater testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections (STI).  Authored by Senator Dr. Richard Pan, SB 306 will expand access to STI testing remotely at home and in the community, increase access to STI treatment for patients and their partners, and update state law to boost congenital syphilis screening in the face of alarming increases in maternal-child transmission.

"STI rates across the country have reached crisis levels and it has become worse as an antibiotic-resistant strain of gonorrhea spread across the country,” said Dr. Pan. “SB 306 is an essential public health measure, and I am proud to have partnered with such a strong coalition of community health organizations to strengthen public health and expand access to STI diagnosis and treatment in California."

In response to the bill’s signing, co-sponsors APLA Health, Black Women for Wellness Action Project, Essential Access Health, Fresno Barrios Unidos, Los Angeles LGBT Center, and San Francisco AIDS Foundation released the following joint statement:

“For the past six years, STI rates have reached record highs in California. The signing of SB 306 is a critical and important step in addressing this ongoing public health crisis and achieving greater health equity statewide.

“Rising STI rates have gone largely ignored for far too long. STI prevention is an equity issue. Pre-existing structural barriers to STI treatment and care have only worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic, disproportionately impacting Black, Indigenous and people of color, rural regions, California youth, and LGBTQ+ communities. Factors linked to social determinants of health contribute to STI rate disparities, including inequitable access to safe, culturally competent, quality health, mental health and substance use treatment services, as well as high rates of incarceration, lack of access to economic mobility and education opportunities, adequate housing, racial segregation, and racism.

“SB 306 is the bold action California needs to turn the tide on rising STI rates. The bill seeks to expand the tools and resources that health providers can use to increase access, reduce STI transmission and improve health outcomes across the state in partnership with advocates, local organizations and community members.

“We applaud Dr. Pan for his leadership in introducing this comprehensive and robust approach to STI prevention, and thank Governor Newsom for signing this important measure into state law. California will once again lead with innovation and best practices in STI prevention and care, and serve as a model for other states to follow.”

Background

New data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 1 in 5 people in the U.S. have an STI. Long before the COVID-19 public health emergency, STI rates reached historic highs and epidemic proportions in California and nationwide. The STI crisis has been exacerbated during the pandemic with reduced testing and shortages in testing supplies – disproportionately impacting Black, Indigenous and people of color, California youth, and gay, bisexual, and transgender people.
 
The CDC estimates that there are approximately 20 million new STI infections nationwide each year. California STI rates are among the highest in the nation. Syphilis rates are particularly alarming – between 2015 and 2019, syphilis rates in California rose by 74%. If left undetected and untreated, STIs can lead to serious, long-term health problems including infertility, cancer, and blindness. In 2018, more than 329 babies were born with congenital syphilis in California and there were 20 stillbirths associated with the disease. Over 100 babies were born with congenital syphilis in Los Angeles County alone in 2020. The cost of STIs to the U.S. health care system is estimated to be as much as $16 billion annually. Approximately $1 billion is spent annually statewide on health costs associated with STIs.
 
SB 306 will expand access to STI testing + treatment through the following provisions:

  • Requiring health plans to cover at-home test kits for HIV and STIs
  • Increasing the number of providers that can provide STI testing in the community
  • Supporting the delivery of expedited partner therapy, which allows patients to obtain STI treatment for their partners
  • Requiring syphilis screening during both the first and third trimester of pregnancy

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