Testing for STIs in the U.S. Dropped During Early Pandemic
Low point in testing for chlamydia and gonorrhea seen in early April 2020, raising the possibility of many missed cases
THURSDAY, June 3, 2021 (HealthDay News) -- Screening and testing for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) decreased in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, suggesting the potential for a future surge in cases, according to a study published May 19 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
Casey N. Pinto, Ph.D., M.P.H., from Pennsylvania State University in Hershey, and colleagues assessed U.S. chlamydia and gonorrhea testing and positivity using data from a national reference clinical laboratory (January 2019 through June 2020). The analysis included 13.6 million tests for female patients and 4.7 million tests for male patients aged 14 to 49 years.
The researchers found that chlamydia and gonorrhea testing reached a low point in early April 2020, with decreases (relative to the baseline level) of 59 percent for female patients and 63 percent for male patients. There was a strong association between declines in testing and increases in weekly positivity rates for chlamydia (R2 = 0.96) and gonorrhea (R2 = 0.85). It was estimated that 27,659 chlamydia cases (26.4 percent) and 5,577 gonorrhea cases (16.5 percent) were potentially missed from March 2020 through June 2020.
"The quickest way for people to spread STIs is to not know that they have one," Pinto said in a statement. "The inability to detect asymptomatic cases could have negative repercussions for years to come."
Several authors report financial ties to Quest Diagnostics, which supplied the data for the study.