September 20, 2021

STI Rates are Down, But Not for the Reasons You Think

Brian Carufe

The logic here is about as airtight as a mask with a hole in it (or a condom for that matter). Unfortunately, both faulty logic and faulty equipment often lead to infection, and the reign of Covid-19 has been no exception. While STI rates have plummeted during the pandemic, the reasons aren’t as encouraging as you may hope. 

1. People have avoided getting out (and getting tested)

Few folks were flocking anywhere in 2020, if not to bars then certainly not to health screening clinics. To many prospective patients, any medical center posed the threat of imminent infection, and (unless absolutely necessary) proved a place people sought to avoid, regardless of the benefits of regular STI testing. In spring 2020, there were decreases of 59% for female patients and 63% for male patients in chlamydia and gonorrhea testing compared to the baseline numbers of the year before. While a dose of healthy fear can be useful in a pandemic, it becomes decidedly less healthy when the fear impacts your, well, health. 

2. Clinics have been swamped 

Making matters even more troubling, some sexual health screening clinics reported having to reduce hours or even shut down completely due to the pandemic. Already understaffed well before 2020, the onset of Covid-19 only exacerbated the issue with many contact tracers being diverted to deal with the more deadly matter at hand. Also diverted: supplies of swabs and tubes. Crucial to STI testing: a lot of swabs and tubes, proving that the only thing worse than faulty equipment, is a lack of equipment altogether. Regrettably, some clinics that historically distribute prophylactics to poor and minority patients (and teenagers) have also suffered cutbacks and closures, which can lead to an overall lack of insight into present and future outbreaks. Even into January 2021, 40% of STI testing programs in the US were operating with reduced capacity, according to David Harvey, executive director of the National Coalition of STD Directors. Without data, without surveillance, without condoms, the risk of widespread infection is virtually inevitable. 

3. Covid didn’t do much to reduce libidos

The single life has its challenges in even the best of circumstances, let alone during a global contagion. While the closure of most social settings may seem like a surefire way to drive down any copulation, in the immortal words of Jeff Goldblum, “Life finds a way.” Use of online dating apps boomed even at the pandemic’s peak. And while overall sexual activity may have been understandably reduced during this period, it hardly disappeared completely. But with limited access to traditional testing methods, many people forwent that testing altogether for far too long. 

In short, as Covid testing has risen, STI testing has regrettably fallen, so it’s understandable to find yourself asking:

Are we screwed? 

Are we are collectively doomed to this nightmarish seesaw or is there a safe way for us to - *ahem* - get off? To answer your question:

Not by a long shot. 

Remember those swabs and tubes that have been steadily depleting? Well, they’re in your mailbox. Or at least, they could be.

Ash Enables At-Home STI Testing for Your Practice

In a pandemic or in peacetime, at-home STI testing can provide easier, more comfortable access to care for all. Ash is here to provide a testing experience that requires:

1. No hassle

The only thing worse than having to schedule an STI checkup in the middle of the workday is waiting in line for an STI checkup in the middle of the work day. The use of at-home testing puts these scenarios permanently to bed as all of the materials are doorstep delivered with easy-to-follow instructions for self-administration and postal return. These services can also be regularly scheduled, which could free up our calendars and waiting rooms alike. 

2. No judgment

As the saying goes, some things are just for the ears of your god and your doctor. But why not narrow the list a little further? The widespread implementation of these services could eliminate any stress about verbally disclosing gender identity, sexual identity, or intimate history. The packaging is also discreet, so no one has to fret about adding their local postal worker to the list either. 

3. No worries  

As the world has opened back up, our social lives have too. People of all ages are seeking intimacy and connection now more than ever before. However, the couple we’re rooting for most is undoubtedly Safety and Happiness, and at-home STI testing is tying their knot. The adoption of these services (now officially encouraged by the CDC) could ease both communal and individual burdens: that of our crowded healthcare centers and our own crowded calendars. The immediate benefits of this approach are perhaps most obvious; the long-term ones are equally hard to ignore. Even after the dust settles on the Covid crisis, at-home testing is here to stay. It’s the healthcare perk that no one even knew they wanted, providing discretion, accessibility, routine, and convenience in widespread sickness or in health.  

You can’t say you couldn’t get tested for STIs, when the test for STIs could come to you. That’s logic no one can argue with. Set up at-home testing for your practice today with Ash.

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