After briefly declining in the first months of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, the incidence of STIs rose again above 2019 levels to end the year at its peak, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Researchers at the CDC said its report, 2020 Sexually Transmitted Disease Control, shows how Covid-19 disrupted individuals’ health care and scarcely diverted public health resources from sexually transmitted diseases, which had been on the rise for years.
Eventually, directing funding to Covid-19 caused young people, racial minorities, and gay and bisexual men to suffer excessively from new infections, it said.
The new data give “the clearest picture to date [the impact of] Covid-19 on sexually transmitted diseases, “said Dr. Jonathan Mermin, director of the CDC National Center for HIV, Viral Hepatitis, Sexually Transmitted Diseases and TB. “Honestly, there is just a lot that needs to be done.”
A new CDC report covers 2020, the first year of the pandemic and a time defined by closures, social distance and fear. The new report covers the incidence of gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis.
In early 2020, it seemed that social distance could reduce the incidence of sexually transmitted diseases. However, by the end of the year, few infections had increased beyond the levels seen in 2019. In just one instance, the incidence of gonorrhea had risen by 10% by the end of the year, Mermin said.
This increased frequency was driven by a lack of personal appointments, delayed health screenings, health insurance cancellations for people who lost their jobs, and “rhythmic public health infrastructure” that moved touchdowns and test supplies to Covid-19.
In 2020, the number of reported cases of gonorrhea increased by 10% and syphilis (two stages of the disease, with different symptoms) 7% compared to 2019. Of particular concern was the incidence of congenital syphilis, or syphilis from mother to newborn, which increased by 15% from 2019 and has increased by 235% compared to 2016.
The incidence of chlamydia dropped by 13% in 2020, but researchers said the drop was not a good thing. Rather, chlamydia is usually asymptomatic and is diagnosed on its own as a cardiac stroke. Because people postponed these visits in 2020, the cases were probably undiagnosed.
What’s more, groups that suffered excessively from new infections, such as racial and ethnic minorities, are among the same groups that were disproportionately affected by Covid-19. Sexually transmitted diseases also particularly affected the young and the poor.
“Some racial and ethnic minorities continue to experience a higher incidence of sexually transmitted diseases,” and half of the new infections are between the ages of 15 and 24, said Dr. Leandro Mena, director of the CDC’s Department of Sexual Disease Prevention.
For decades, the United States has spent more on health care than any other country, yet has poorer health than many other developed nations. Such a high proportion of sexually transmitted diseases among people with fewer resources is a reflection of “the nation’s failure to provide adequate health care for all who need it,” Mena said.
Although the data for 2020 is lousy, scientists said there were bright spots. For example, the ability to test and staff to trace contact has stabilized since 2020 and is reaching pre-pandemic levels – although this may be due to the fact that many healthcare departments have given up or significantly reduced contact due to Covid-19 following the Omicron wave.
The federal government also released the first five-year plan to fight sexually transmitted diseases and has invested $ 200 million to build public health capacity. The hope, scientists said, was to avoid disrupting services for diseases such as sexually transmitted diseases in the event of another emergency.