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COVID blitz test disrupts screening, fights sexually transmitted infections

WASHINGTON (AP) – Following an unprecedented drive to test COVID-19, public health workers are facing a troubling side effect. The collapse of the display of sexually transmitted diseases that has been growing for years.

In many parts of the United States, tests for chlamydia-like gonorrhea fell last year as COVID-19 was depleted of resources. Health officials say the test gap did not allow them to track or control outbreaks of diseases that were already at record levels before the epidemic.

“It is clear that there have been massive disruptions in testing, monitoring and clinical care, which may be worse than ever,” said David Harvey, executive director of the National Coalition of STD Directors, which represents the local government. health workers.

During the blockade last spring, many STD clinics closed their doors or cut their hours. Employees who previously helped track down infections have been reassigned to focus on COVID-19. And the labs that developed the STD tests had to supply sections to focus on the flood of COVID-19 inputs.

Research by the Harvey Group shows that even in January of this year, 40% of STD programs continued to work in a reduced number due to COVID-19. This has led to reductions in services to find and fight infections that can often spread, with or without symptoms.

In Vermont, Daniel Daltri is one of only two full-time government employees to pursue HIV, hepatitis and other high-risk infections. Over the past year, he has spent most of his time at COVID-19, while also training 160 new employees hired to help track his coronavirus.

Daltrin և and his colleague continued to search for syphilis և HIV during the outbreak.

“But anything else we just could not do,” said Daltri, noting that they do not treat diseases such as gonorrhea.

Like other areas, Vermont has seen a steady increase in STD cases, with a 50% drop in chlamydia and a 90% drop in HIV compared to 2019, which experts say is largely the result of a reduced trial.

The decrease reflects the national trends reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last fall.

Analyzing data from the National Laboratory Service, the CDC said in September that chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis tests dropped from 30 percent to 50 percent last spring and were somewhat restored by early summer.

Doctors usually discuss և examining sexually transmitted infections as part of the routine care of sexually active adults: adolescents. Testing for common annual infections is recommended for high-risk groups, including women under 25 and gay and bisexual men. ST PH clinics often provide free or inexpensive testing and counseling.

Due to reporting failures, the CDC is lagging behind in compiling its annual STD numbers և will not finalize 2019 figures վերջ by the end of this month.

The agency warns that STDs have been growing steadily for five years, hitting a record number of cases of syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia in 2018. public health budgets.

“In order to take our resources and direct them to COVID, it is especially important that we go back now and say, ‘If you are sexually active, you should be tested,'” said Dr. Hillary Reno, a CDC consultant and professor at the University of Washington. St. Louis Medical School.

Among the 130 STD examinations in the St. Louis area, according to Reno figures, the test is still about two-thirds pre-epidemic.

One possibility that the decline is that social distance has slowed sexual activity for months. But Reno and other experts are skeptical.

The largest dating sites և applications reported a record usage in 2020, suggesting that many people may have continued to connect with the entire epidemic.

Dr. Ina Park, of the University of California, San Francisco, thinks people could stop for months. “But then I think people hit their breaking point, they launched their Tinder, Grindr or any other app, they started meeting people to connect, to have sex again.”

Untreated STDs can have long-term serious health complications. Chlamydia can damage the male և female reproductive system և lead to pregnancy complications. Syphilis can also lead to pregnancy-related problems, neonatal infections if not treated with antibiotics, organ damage, and neurological problems in both men and women.

The CDC continues to report on laboratory chemicals in some of the test kits below the norm used for the SD PH study to match COVID-19 stocks. If necessary, the CDC says providers should prioritize testing for high-risk groups, including pregnant women who have multiple sexual partners, sexually active, and bisexual men.

Test failures have led to work shifts in many STD clinics, including initial online counseling for patients with symptoms և collection of in-house samples for diseases such as chlamydia և gonorrhea. U.S. officials recently approved the first care test for these two infections, which can be used in a doctor’s office քներ to get results in about 30 minutes.

Public health professionals hope some of these new approaches can boost traditional services as they try to make up for lost time.

“This opens another tool in the toolbox to access the services people need,” said Daltry, who oversees the Vermont SPS Oversight Program.

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Follow Matthew Perron on Twitter at @AP_FDAwriter

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The Associated Press Health Science Department is supported by the Science Education Department of Howard Hughes Medical Institute. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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