Elizabeth Talmont, DNP, ANP-BC, Chief Project Officer at Planned Parenthood of Northern, Central and Southern New Jersey.
As Chief Project Officer and a Doctor of Nursing Practice, you are conducting research around what is known as Mgen, a sexually transmitted infection. What can you tell us about Mgen?
Mgen is a sexually transmitted bacterial infection. It’s increasingly common. The infection is associated with pelvic inflammatory disease, preterm delivery, spontaneous abortion, and infertility. Acute symptoms are painful urination, penile and vaginal discharge, and itching. Some people don’t have acute symptoms and don’t know they have the infection. That makes diagnosis tricky.
How is Planned Parenthood educating physicians and patients?
We designed our own study to understand the prevalence of Mgen and are going to publish the findings soon. What I can say now is that we found a higher-than-expected prevalence of Mgen in symptomatic women. We’re hoping that the study will propel providers to test more frequently for Mgen and that laboratories will offer the testing and payers will cover the costs. Right now, not a lot of providers are testing for this infection. Not all laboratories offer the testing. There was no commercially available test until 2019, but happily there are two FDA-approved tests on the market now.
And one key strategy in combatting STIs is to offer partner treatment. Providers must give a patient’s partner or partners the treatment for this infection so that we reduce the incidence of reinfection or spread of disease. The good news is that this infection is curable with antibiotics.
How important is Planned Parenthood’s work in identifying, treating, and reducing the spread of STIs?
We can’t underscore enough the importance of Planned Parenthood’s role. Planned Parenthood of Northern, Central, and Southern New Jersey completed 130,000 tests for sexually transmitted infections in 2022 alone. We’re one of the state’s largest, if not the largest, screener. Sexually transmitted infections do not care about your age, your race, your gender, or your socioeconomic status.
At Planned Parenthood, we diagnose and treat sexually transmitted infections every day. And we do it in a non-judgmental, non-stigmatizing way. We must reduce barriers to care and reduce the stigma and shame that can come with a diagnosis of a sexually transmitted infection if we hope to reduce these numbers. We treat partners and we work on a sliding scale to reduce economic barriers.
We’ve seen the landscape on reproductive health care and access to abortion change dramatically across the nation. What do you think these changes mean to New Jersey?
Since the Dobbs decision last summer, we’ve seen more and more people traveling to New Jersey for abortion care. As more states either ban abortion outright or impose strict barriers, we’re going to have to work harder and harder to see patients. As a provider of abortion care in a safe-haven state, we work every day to ensure that people have access to care. We take that responsibility very seriously and we stand ready to help wherever we can. And we encourage all people to do that.
We do like to ask a question that is outside the scope of your professional work. Who is your favorite New Jersey artist, writer, actor, singer, etc.?
I’m delighted to answer Judy Blume. She’s from Elizabeth, right down the street from where I live. She is a trailblazer not only in her writing but in her advocacy. I read her books as a kid. It was scandalous at the time to talk about puberty, to talk about sexuality, especially girls’ sexuality. She is 85 now and is a staunch supporter of Planned Parenthood and LGBTQ rights. Judy Blume uses her voice and her platform to entertain, to educate, and, I think, to inspire.