Pandemic hasn’t slowed the spread of some STDs

Apr 13, 2022

Cases of some sexually transmitted diseases continued to rise in 2020, the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, while overall STD cases declined, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a new report.

Reports of gonorrhea, syphilis and congenital syphilis rose in 2020 compared to 2019, according to the CDC. However, the number of reports of chlamydia decreased compared to 2019, as did the total number of STI cases. Overall, the U.S. had about 2.4 million STIs in 2020, down from the 2.6 million cases in 2019, the CDC said.

The report said the total number of STD cases may have fallen for several reasons related to COVID-19: home orders, increased unemployment that caused people to lose their health insurance, and increased use of telemedicine that did not involve lab testing.

“COVID-19 continues to impact our health care system and the resources of the STD program,” the report said. “It is unclear how the pandemic will affect future STD surveillance data. However, there is no reason to believe that we will be back to ‘business as usual’ reporting STDs anytime soon.”

The decline in reported chlamydia cases may have occurred because COVID put such pressure on the health care system, not because infections have actually fallen, the report said.

“Many jurisdictions reported critical effects on staffing levels and testing and treatment supplies, putting pressure on an already crumbling public health infrastructure,” the report said. “COVID-19 had a significant impact on STI surveillance and prevention efforts, and these challenges are reflected in this new report.”

The CDC reported the following case numbers:

1,579,885 cases of chlamydia were reported in 2020, a decrease of 13% from the previous year.688,769 cases of gonorrhea were reported in 2020, a decrease of 10% from the previous year.133,945 cases of all stages of syphilis were reported in 2020, a 7% increase from the previous year. In 2020, 2,148 cases of congenital syphilis were reported, an increase of about 15% from the previous year and a 235% increase since 2016.

The CDC said the rise in congenital syphilis was especially alarming because the disease can cause lifelong problems in children and is easily preventable with screening. Congenital syphilis is much more common in minority communities than in white communities, underscoring how STIs disproportionately affect minorities.

“This … highlights the nation’s failure to provide adequate quality sexual health care for everyone who needs it,” Leandro Mena, MD, director of CDC’s division of STD prevention, said during a media telebriefing Tuesday. according to ABC News.

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