Reported cases of multiple sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) increased in the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic, as the frequency of screening decreased, an official report said on Tuesday.
The pandemic has worsened the underlying propensity to increase sexually transmitted diseases over the past decade, cited by declining funding for public health, said Jonathan Mermin, a physician and senior official at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), who wrote the report.
Reported cases of gonorrhea and primary and secondary syphilis increased by 10 percent and 7 percent respectively, compared to 2019.
Neonatal syphilis, known as congenital syphilis, also increased, with reported cases increasing by almost 15 percent from 2019 and 235 percent from 2016. Preliminary data suggest that primary and secondary syphilis and congenital syphilis have also continued to increase in 2021. .
The number of reported chlamydia cases has decreased by 13 percent since 2019, but experts suspect that this is misleading – as the disease is often asymptomatic and diagnosed by screening, such as a routine blood smear.
A total of 2.4 million cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis were reported.
COVID-19 “came at a very difficult time for the STI board,” Mermin told reporters in a phone call.
“We already had a constrained, crumbling public health infrastructure. There are many communities in the United States that do not have STI specialty offices. What led to that was a worsening of the development that has already increased.”
“The consequences of congenital syphilis are the most serious,” he added. “They include lifelong physical and mental health problems, miscarriages or stillbirths.”
The number of reported cases of sexually transmitted diseases initially decreased in the first months of 2020, when closure forced social distance, but increased again at the end of the year.
Factors blamed for the increase include a lower frequency of health care services leading to less screening; to dissuade healthcare workers from sexually transmitted diseases in response to the COVID epidemic; STD testing and lack of laboratory; and is canceled in health insurance due to unemployment.
Leandro Mena, another senior CDC official, added that social and economic factors, such as poverty and social security, led to worse sexually transmitted diseases.
Over half of the sexually transmitted diseases reported ranged in age from 16 to 24 years. Racial minorities, including blacks, Hispanics, and Native Americans, were disproportionately affected, with 42 percent of cases of primary and secondary syphilis occurring among gays and bisexual men.
Public funding for local sexual health institutions has declined for several years, and data show that the most disadvantaged states are often the least developed states, such as the Mississippi.
About half of gonorrhea cases were thought to be resistant to at least one antibiotic, but the CDC does not believe that antibiotic resistance is the driving force behind growing cases at this time.
© Agence France-Presse