CDC: STDs up during first year of the pandemic

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(Photo supplied/Centers For Disease Control and Prevention)

The number of sexually transmitted diseases went up during the first year of the pandemic, says new data from the Centers for Disease Control.

“While there were moments in 2020 where it felt like the world was standing still, sexually transmitted diseases were not,” said Dr. Jonathan Mermin, Director, National Center for HIV, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, in a news conference Tuesday, discussing the data, which is the latest collected and analyzed on STDs.

“The unrelenting momentum of STDs continued even as prevention and treatment services were disrupted,” he said.

Indiana has never been one of the states with the most STD cases reported, the state is not at the bottom. Indiana has generally ranked at 21st in the country in years past.

As the pandemic lockdowns caused many people to stop seeking non-emergency medical services, treatment and prevention of STDs declined, suggests the data.

“Despite an initial decrease in STDs early on in 2020, overall cases of gonorrhea, syphilis, and congenital syphilis all surpassed their 2019 levels,” said Mermin.

Syphilis went up 7 percent in 2020, while gonorrhea went up 10 percent and syphilis cases among newborns, known as congenital syphilis, went up 15 percent. Congenital syphilis can cause life-long mental and physical problems.

Cases of chlamydia went down 13 percent during 2020. But, Mermin said the belief is that since the disease is often asymptomatic, that many people who had it may not have sought diagnosis or treatment because of pandemic fears and lockdowns.

The latest data published on the Indiana Dept. of Health website says chlamydia is by far the most common STD in Indiana, and that STD cases have been surging, even before the surge during the pandemic.

Most STDs have not slowed down, with data from 2021 suggesting increases in syphilis and gonorrhea. People who are in poverty or who are people of color are more likely to get them.

“Over two million STD diagnoses per year is a heavy burden our nation cannot accept,” said Mermin.

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