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23 Sep, 2020 13:44

Chlamydia & gonorrhea rates in younger US women SOAR, as health experts raise alarm over drop in tests during pandemic

Chlamydia & gonorrhea rates in younger US women SOAR, as health experts raise alarm over drop in tests during pandemic

Rates of chlamydia and gonorrhea have skyrocketed among young women in the US in recent years. Health experts are concerned infections are now going undiagnosed after testing dropped precipitously as a result of the pandemic.

According to the results of a recent study conducted by Quest Diagnostics, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, there has been a 50 percent spike in positive cases among women aged 25 to 30.

The research examined 17 million laboratory samples from women aged 12 to 30, taken between 2010 and 2017.

While there was a noticeable decline in cases of both chlamydia and gonorrhea among sexually active teenagers from ages 12 to 17, the 18-to-21 category saw a 21 percent increase in sexually transmitted infections (STIs). 

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According to Harvey Kaufman, director of Quest's Health Trends Research Program, the findings suggest a change in sexual and contraceptive practices since 2002, when the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) first published guidelines on check-ups for STIs.

To make matters worse, Covid-19 closures and shutdowns have interrupted testing in many areas across the US, potentially preventing sexual health centers from catching infections early – with possible consequences for the public's sexual health further down the line. 

A damning new report by the CDC found that tens of thousands of cases of gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis may have gone undetected as a result of health clinic closures during the pandemic. 

Many centers took a proactive approach back in February when coronavirus cases began to rise significantly, and shut down or severely curtailed services, as local health departments reassigned STD caseworkers to the front lines of the Covid-19 effort. 

In St. Louis alone, 30 percent of STD and HIV clinics closed, while 60 percent operated at a reduced capacity. Testing dropped by a whopping 45 percent and is unlikely to recover to full capacity in the near future, given the ongoing pandemic restrictions on health services. 

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Test kit numbers are also dwindling, forcing the CDC to issue new guidelines on how to prioritize patients for testing, advising sexual health centers to prioritize checks for pregnant women and men who have sex with men.

CDC data has shown a trend of increasing rates of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis year-on-year for the past five years.

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