It is indisputable that the global COVID-19 pandemic has severely impacted our lives. All over the world, travel has stopped as individual countries attempt to contain the virus. Many businesses are closed in an effort to prevent transmission between employees and customers. In April and May, Singapore started its “Circuit Breaker” to contain the virus, preventing non-essential businesses from operating and limiting social contact to a bare minimum. Because of the current situation, the cases of patients with sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) have also been affected globally. From the perspective of an STD clinic in Singapore, these global numbers are important to watch, as similar trends may surface in the Singaporean population. Below are two perspectives from the United States on how STD cases have been affected during the pandemic.
A Plummet of Cases in New York City
As New York City struggles to contain the pandemic, there is a ray of hope. According to the New York Post, STD cases in New York City have been steadily declining due to social distancing. The city’s Health Department reported that new confirmed STD cases have fallen approximately 80 per cent over the months of March and April, from 5,073 in the week of March 1 to 1,037 in the week of April 12. Though the decline in STD cases is great news, health officials have also stated that the drop could be attributed to New Yorkers delaying STD tests as many clinics are closed for physical testing during this period. It remains to be seen whether the pandemic would affect the number of STD cases in New York City for the better.
Lesser Manpower Available for STD Tests
Because HIV experts are often experts of infectious diseases, many of them have been reassigned to respond to COVID-19, rather than work with patients who tested positive for HIV, reported The Hill. Clinics are also reducing opening hours and refusing walk-ins. This could potentially result in a setback in the fight against HIV and higher STD rates. The executive director of the National Coalition of STD Directors (NCSD) even stated that they are likely to experience higher STD rates after the pandemic has subsided. The article also states that the US government’s plan to end the HIV epidemic by 2030 may not come to fruition as a lot of the work needed to achieve that state is no longer possible: outreach programmes are being pulled back; mobile testing clinics can no longer operate and STD clinics do not have the capacity to provide extensive treatment for those suffering from STDs. In the United States, the pandemic has definitely shifted the focus away from the fight against STDs.
While it is certain that social distancing measures have reduced the amount of sexual contact we have outside those living in with us, it remains to be seen whether the local healthcare systems will be able to provide adequate help to STD patients after the pandemic.