Public health experts discussed how nationwide trends of gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis testing and diagnosis have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic at a virtual roundtable as part of the 2020 STD Prevention Conference September 14.
Reported cases of the sexually transmitted diseases/infections declined during shelter-in-place orders throughout much of the United States in March, but by summer cases of both gonorrhea and syphilis had rebounded. Dr. Gail Bolan, the director of the Division of STD Prevention at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reported that numbers of STDs were at record highs at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr. Hillard Weinstock, chief of surveillance and data centers for the division at the CDC, gave several factors that influenced the overall decline in reported cases — stay-at-home orders impacted individuals’ movement patterns and it became harder to get tested as health resources were moved toward pandemic response.
Dr. Hilary Reno, MD, PhD, an associate professor at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Infectious Diseases, said that there was a 45% per-week drop in overall STD tests due to the COVID-19 pandemic as 28% of STI/HIV testing sites closed and 43% of sites that provided condoms closed in the St. Louis region.
This led health professionals to create new ways of serving clients.
“Before COVID, we partnered with a pharmacy for PrEP prescriptions,” Reno said. “After, we started using teleconferencing for the initial visit, saving patients a trip. Usually they can get a prescription within 24 hours.”
Reno said that “scaled up express STI services” allowed physical distancing to take place within clinics, leading some that had been closed to be able to reopen before the end of stay-at-home orders in the St. Louis region (which is split between the states of Missouri and Illinois).
These ideas could continue to be utilized beyond the life of the pandemic, Reno said.
This article was adapted with permission from the Bay Area Reporter, LGBTQ Agenda: US gonorrhea, syphilis cases rise as stay-at-home orders recede
Permission granted from author John Ferrannini and news editor, Cynthi Laird.