February 17, 2022
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Source / Information
Chang JJ, et al. Abstract 142. Presented at: Conference on retroviruses and opportunistic infections; 12.-16. February 2022 (virtual meeting).
Information: Chang does not report any relevant financial information.
There was a “profound” reduction in the frequency of testing for chlamydia, gonorrhea, HIV and syphilis in Southern California during the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers at the conference reported on retroviruses and opportunistic infections.
Along with reduced testing, there were reductions in the number of diagnoses for chlamydia, gonorrhea and HIV, whereas diagnoses of syphilis actually increased.
Jennifer J. Chang
“The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted routine medical treatment and affected sexual health and treatment services,” Jennifer J. Chang, MDa doctor for Kaiser Permanente, said during her presentation.
“Contributing factors included provider-driven declines in face-to-face visits, patient-driven concerns about safe access to health care, lack of testing of reagents and materials and locally in California, public health redistributions from STIs to COVID-19 remediation programs,” Chang said.
Chang and colleagues conducted a retrospective study using the electronic health records of people aged 12 or older enrolled in the Kaiser Permanente Southern California system – a racially and ethnically diverse study population of more than 4 million, Chang said. The reported rates per. 100,000 persons of tests performed annually from 2017 to 2020.
Compared to the pre-pandemic period, when there were consistent increases in screening for HIV and STIs, test rates decreased from March to December 2020 for chlamydia by 34%, syphilis by 24%, gonorrhea by 34% and HIV by 29%.
The frequency of diagnoses was also lower, including 30% lower for chlamydia, 5% lower for gonorrhea and 24% lower for HIV. The incidence of syphilis was 19% higher during the pandemic.
“As gonorrhea and syphilis often have symptoms that lead patients to test for HIV and STIs, we believe that these data generally suggest an underdiagnosis of HIV and chlamydia, which are often clinically latent or asymptomatic in nature,” he said. Chang.
She said during a news conference that the drop in screening “could potentially have a really long-term impact on public health efforts to curb the spread of infection.”