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STIs on the Rise During Covid


STIs: Epidemic Numbers


STIs were at epidemic proportions before the Covid-19 Pandemic struck the world, but the restrictions Covid created have not helped to reduce the numbers. The exact opposite is true, with numbers on the rise throughout the last couple of years.  Although this may seem counter intuitive, there are several factors that have impacted this growth.  The CDC released their report in April 2022 that helps explain the dramatic rise in the numbers that are now surpassing 2019’s infection rates.


How Covid impacted the STI epidemic?


Covid-19 created many roadblocks with regards to accessibility to testing and treatment for STIs.  Many clinics were closed due to restrictions to reduce the spread of Covid.  This meant people were not getting tested for STIs and many asymptomatic cases were left untreated. As well, many symptomatic cases were not able to access care for treatment or identify what the symptoms were from.  Outreach efforts were restricted and sexual wellness products such as condoms and oral barriers were not able to be distributed.  Staff from many public health and STI testing organizations were re-allocated to Covid-19 duties, resulting in an absence of accessible treatment centres. These factors were also further compounded by a lack of testing supplies and laboratory access due to the volume of Covid-19 testing and supplies required. 


What did not change: people having sexual encounters.


What STIs are on the rise?


The CDC explains this with the following data that was collected at the end of 2020:


  • Reported cases of gonorrhea and primary & secondary (P&S) syphilis were up 10% and 7%, respectively, compared to 2019.
  • Syphilis among newborns (i.e., congenital syphilis) also increased, with reported cases up nearly 15% from 2019, and 235% from 2016. Early data indicate primary and secondary syphilis and congenital syphilis cases continued to increase in 2021 as well.
  • Reported cases of chlamydia declined 13% from 2019.

The decline in chlamydia is likely the result of lack of testing and not being properly diagnosed versus a reduction in the actual infection rate. 


So, What’s Next?


The next step in the fight against STIs has to be education and awareness.  The public needs to understand the seriousness of STIs and the possible long-term effects they can have on one’s health.  This path needs to be coupled with testing, outreach, availability of treatments for all demographics, and, most importantly, proper funding to ensure the programs are effective for all.  The outreach needs to support the following so we can help reduce the incidence rate of STIs:

  • The shame and stigma surrounding STIs needs to be removed.
  • STIs and one’s sexual health needs to have the same attention as one’s physical and mental health.
  • Social and economic factors, such as poverty, access to insurance, and antiquated systems need to be addressed.
  • Education needs to be a priority to help support prevention.
  • The world needs to understand the impact STIs have on everyone.


More than 1 million sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are acquired every day worldwide, the majority of which are asymptomatic.


The message of prevention, STI testing, outreach of sexual wellness products and educating everyone about one’s sexual wellness throughout the different stages of life needs to be shared now to help prevent these numbers from increasing even more.

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