Medical care for non-COVID-related issues slowed drastically during the height of the pandemic and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is warning it might catch up to us this summer as the rates of sexually transmitted diseases are expected to rise significantly as more people return to public life.
A study published in May by the American Journal of Preventative Medicine found screenings for sexually transmitted infections dropped by 40% during the first three months of the pandemic and continued to trail 2019 numbers for the rest of the year.
Doctors say they do not think the drop is entirely because people were not having sex, but in large part because they were not getting tested, which naturally would lead to a wider spread of these diseases.
“Now, people are less reluctant to go out, and now having vaccinations, they’re more ready to get back out there, meet more people, and kind of go back to having a lot more sex,” said Dr. Juliet Leman, a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine.
“People are coming in for screenings now so we’re catching up to the ones that were not screened because of the pandemic, so I do think that is playing a role,” added Dr. Sarah Logan, an OB/GYN.
In 2019, the year with the most recent CDC data on STI’s, cases of chlamydia rose 19%, gonorrhea rose 56%, and cases of syphilis rose 74% since the year 2015.
Not only that, 2019 was the sixth straight year with the highest STI numbers in American history.
The basic knowledge for staying safe is still the same as it has always been: wear protection and get tested regularly. The difference comes in changing mindsets towards more casual sex and more partners.
A 2019 CDC survey of sexually active high school students found nearly 50% did not use a condom the last time they had sex.
“There’s less discussion between parents and kids about this stuff,” said Dr. Leman. “They’re just figuring it out online and Dr. Google is not always right.”