Lawmakers in Nebraska are working to make it easier for doctors to treat sexually transmitted diseases.
A bill allowing the sexual partners of individuals with certain STDs to receive prescription medication without being seen by a healthcare professional has won first-round approval in the state.
Legislative bill 528 was heavily debated, but passed with a vote of 32-3, according to the Associated Press. It was introduced by state Sen. Sara Howard, who argued that allowing the sexual partners of individuals who have been diagnosed with chlamydia or gonorrhea to receive treatment without a medical exam would curb the diseases from spreading. A similar bill was introduced last year, but did not receive enough votes to progress past the first round of debate.
Opponents of the bill argue that the medications could cause side effects as well as promote promiscuity. Some also worry that minors could be treated without their parents being notified.
"In this bill it doesn't prohibit someone that's underage from going in and getting medicine, or a prescription, for their partner, since it isn't age-specific," state Sen. Mark Christensen argued, according to KVNO News. "And there is no notification to parents."
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people between the ages of 15 and 24 are especially impacted by STDs. In fact, the government health organization estimates that individuals in this age group account for half of the 20 million new STDs diagnosed each year.
The Nebraska bill still needs to progress through two more rounds of voting before it reaches the governor's desk to be signed into law.
The practice of allowing healthcare professionals to prescribe medications for the partners of those with confirmed cases of STDs is known as expedited partner therapy. While it wasn't previously prohibited in Nebraska, Howard said that many providers hesitate at the thought of prescribing medicine for individuals they do not meet.
Thirty-two U.S. states currently have expedited partner therapy laws. Additionally, the CDC encourages the practice.