STI Rates May Spike as a Result of Pandemic Fallout

As health officials are forced to prioritize COVID-19, more STI cases go unmonitored and untreated

STI test
As the focus remains on COVID-19 testing, STI testing is falling by the wayside.
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By Kayla Kibbe / May 19, 2020 10:34 am

Despite some optimistic projections from a few doctors and public health experts who predicted the apparent sexlessness of COVID-19 lockdowns would lead to a decline in sexually transmitted infections, experts now warn of the opposite.

As contact tracers, public health department workers who typically trace HIV and STI cases in order to connect potentially infected individuals with testing and treatment, turn their attention to tracking COVID-19 cases, experts fear a post-pandemic spike in STIs as more cases go unmonitored and untreated.

While earlier this month, UK-based doctor John McSorley suggested the presumed period of pandemic-imposed abstinence could present a “game-changer” for the future of sexual health, other health experts aren’t so optimistic.

For one thing, people are still having sex. “Anecdotally, I don’t think people have stopped having sex necessarily, although the number of partners may have gone down,” David Harvey, executive director of the National Coalition of STD Directors (NCSD) told Business Insider.

Moreover, the pandemic has only made it more difficult to get tested, and mounting fears about the coronavirus pandemic may increase fears and anxiety surrounding all viruses and infections, including STIs. After months of panic over coronavirus testing and spread, people may be even more reluctant to go in for testing for infections of any kind.

“We’re really worried about the larger issues of people not getting tested, people not getting treated, and what that means for inadvertent spread of infections in the future,” said Harvey.

Experts also warn that the COVID-19 fallout could undo decades of progress on HIV worldwide, with the darkest projections predicting up to 500,000 extra HIV-related deaths in Africa.

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