The number of patients getting tested for HIV and STDs has plummeted, particularly in Idaho.
A lot fewer people are interested in getting screened compared to last year, and plenty of organizations that offer quick HIV testing have closed.
Ever since the 25th of March, when the state went into lockdown, people have simply stopped asking for tests, stated Kevin Brinegar, a specialist for the HIV program at Idaho. This is troubling news.
According to the latest statistical analysis, for the last few years, the STD rates in the U.S. have skyrocketed. Syphilis cases have increased by 15%, gonorrhea by 5%, and chlamydia by 3%. These are the highest recorded numbers since the early 90s.
With the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, experts fear they will lose more ground in controlling the STDs. Since more resources for the health care industry are focused on curbing the epidemic, very little is left to manage sexually transmitted diseases.
How Did COVID-19 Affect STD and HIV Programs?
According to a survey from NACCHO (National Association of County & City Health Officials), countless hepatitis, STI, and HIV programs are suspended or decreased. To control the pandemic, staff are pulled away to treat priority patients infected with COVID-19 or advised to stay at home.
Health specialists in Michigan are dividing 50% of their schedule on coronavirus contact tracing and 50% on STD work. Other health departments lack investigators who are focused on STDs or don’t have the time to pay attention to it right now.
One of the most impacted efforts is education and outreach since every effort to spread awareness has been stopped.
Some clinics are closed, others are treating top-priority cases with only a handful of people receiving treatment. Since the number of appointments is limited, not many people are willing to get tested.
When things calm down, people will start to see the real impact of all the public health problems they ignored because of the pandemic, stated the chief of public and government affairs at NACCHO, Adriane Casalotti.
What Does That Mean for STD and HIV Transmission?
With so few people getting tested, many could end up unknowingly transmitting the infection. However, social distancing seems to be doing people a favor, at least for the time being. The number of confirmed STD cases since COVID-19 emerged has drastically decreased by a staggering 80%.
According to Dr. Kris Bungay, an employee at the Gotham Medical Group, when the epidemic broke out, he treated four patients. Since then, he hasn’t had any. Social distancing could be the reason for that, stated the doctor.
However, some experts believe, New Yorkers are simply delaying their routine HIV and STD testing.
At the moment, the long-term impact of COVID-19 on STDs is unknown. What we do know is that when things get ignored, they can pop right back up and remind us of how bad they can actually get. Hopefully, the healthcare system can return to its normal routines and get the STD and HIV programs back on track.