Screening and testing for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) dropped dramatically – even as the proportion of positive tests increased – during the first months of the pandemic, a new study suggests.
Researchers at Penn State University and Quest Diagnostics found that testing decreased by about 60 percent for both men and women.
This led to an estimated 27,000 missed chlamydia cases and more than 5,000 missed gonorrhea cases.
However, the percentage of tests that came back positive increased by as much as 43 percent for some STDs.
The team says the declines are likely due to restrictions during the pandemic that caused more Americans to have telecare appointments with their doctors – which could lead to a possible increase in STD cases in the future.
It comes after a report from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found 2.5 million cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis, the three most reported STIs, in 2019, which peaked for the sixth consecutive year.
A new study from Penn State University found that the number of tests fell by 59% among women (A) and 63% among men (B) in the early days of the pandemic.
It comes after a CDC report found 2.5 million cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis in 2019 and peaked for the sixth consecutive year.
“ The fastest way for people to spread STDs is by not knowing they have one, ” said Dr. Casey Pinto, an assistant professor of public health sciences at Penn State College of Medicine, in a statement. statement.
“The inability to detect asymptomatic cases could have negative consequences in the years to come.”
An STI is an infection that is passed from one person to another through vaginal, oral, or anal sexual contact.
Some are bacterial infections that can be cured with a single dose of antibiotics, while others are viral infections that cannot be cured but modulated with antivirals.
STDs don’t always have symptoms and, if left diagnosed and untreated, can have serious health consequences.
Some infections can increase the risk of HIV or cause chronic pelvic pain, pelvic inflammation, and even infertility.
In the early days of the pandemic, the CDC advised doctors to stop STI testing unless patients show symptoms.
However, the team’s most cases of chlamydia and gonorrhea – about 80 percent – are asymptomatic.
For the study, published in American Journal of Preventive Medicine, the team looked at more than 18 million STD test results from patients aged 18 to 49 from January 2019 to June 2020.
Researchers found that the number of tests decreased by 63 percent among men and by 59 percent among women.
According to the team, this likely resulted in 27,659 missed cases of chlamydia and 5,577 missed cases of gonorrhea between March 2020 and June 2020.
However, the test positivity rates increased by 18% for chlamydia and 41% for gonorrhea in men and by 10% for chlamydia 43% for gonorrhea in women
However, for those who did test, the proportion of tests that came back positive increased.
The results showed that, for men, test positivity rates were up 18 percent for chlamydia and 41 percent for gonorrhea.
Similarly, female patients saw a 10 percent increase in test positivity rates for chlamydia and 43 percent for gonorrhea.
“This research highlights the importance of preserving STI control resources even during a pandemic,” Pinto said.
Looking ahead, healthcare providers need to strike a balance between responding to emerging crises and continuing to provide routine sexual health services.
In addition, STD treatment and intervention efforts should be considered when allocating resources to manage public health emergencies.