STD tests crumble as resources diverted to COVID-19
Collateral damage from the COVID-19 pandemic includes “a collapse in screening for sexually transmitted diseases which have been on the rise for years,” according to a new Associated press report.
The need to devote staff and other resources to COVID testing has led to a sharp decline in STD testing in many parts of the United States, the AP notes. “It is clear that there has been massive disruption in testing, surveillance and clinical care, and this is likely to worsen sexually transmitted infections,” said David Harvey, executive director of the National Coalition of STD Directors, to the press service.
In the spring of 2020, tests for chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis fell by a third to a half from the previous year, although the numbers edged up last summer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But many national and local STD programs have had to downsize due to the pandemic, and as of January this year, 40% of them had not returned to full staff, Harvey said.
The state of Vermont has trained 160 people in contact tracing for COVID, leaving little time for two full-time staff responsible for finding STDs to do so, said Daniel Daltry, one of the two, at the ‘AP. Daltry and his colleague continued to test for HIV and syphilis, “but anything else we just couldn’t do,” he said.
Testing has also declined in Vermont. Reported cases of chlamydia fell 50% in 2020 from the previous year, and HIV cases fell 90% – but that likely reflects fewer tests, not fewer infections, according to experts at the health. Across the country, cases of syphilis, chlamydia and gonorrhea have been on the rise for the past five years. And while some people avoided sexual activity at the start of the pandemic, connections have apparently rebounded quickly, given the record use of some dating websites and apps in 2020.
Doctors suggest regular testing for sexually transmitted infections for all sexually active people, especially for high-risk groups such as young women and gay and bisexual men, and untreated STDs can have serious consequences on the body. health. For people living with HIV, it is essential to undergo treatment upon diagnosis to avoid complications and reach undetectable levels of the virus; the latter makes it almost impossible to transmit HIV during sex.
As the COVID pandemic progresses, health experts stress the need to renew screening for STDs. “For our resources to be used and diverted to COVID, it is especially important that we now come back and say, ‘If you are sexually active, you should be tested,'” Dr. Hilary Reno, CDC consultant and professor at the University of Washington St. Louis School of Medicine, told the AP.