While the global pandemic in 2020 has managed to keep most of the population across the globe limited to their homes, there has still been an unexplained rise in the number of diagnosed STD cases.
During the pandemic, the number of cases of STDs was expected to fall dramatically as human interaction was checked due to strict stay-at-home regulations. However, the results have been quite the opposite. The number of cases of diagnosed sexually transmitted diseases, though dropped initially, has been on the rise since the start of the pandemic. The year 2020 saw up to a 10% increase in the number of diagnosed cases of STDs like syphilis and gonorrhea compared to 2019. This unexpected rise in the number of STD cases is due to several different reasons, including a lack of resources to combat STDs during the ongoing pandemic, a shift in healthcare priorities, and a general lack of sexual health awareness reasons.
While this trend was unexpected, there are perfectly valid explanations for the rise in STDs even during the global pandemic. Some of these explanations are described below.
WHY ARE STIs ON THE RISE IN 2022?
Several reasons account for the unexpected rise in the number of diagnosed cases of STDs after the pandemic's start. While most of these reasons have to do with the direct implication of the pandemic, there are still other general reasons that have been around for ages. Some of the most important reasons that have influenced this unexpected rise in the number of STD cases are described below.
THE PANDEMIC AND A LACK OF RESOURCES
As the coronavirus pandemic took hold in 2020, much of the world's population was surprised. The sheer number of positive COVID cases and the speed with which the virus spread affected major healthcare systems across the globe. In a nutshell, most of the world's population and healthcare systems were not ready for a disaster of this proportion.
A lack of resources in the developing countries to combat the growing pandemic allowed the problem to grow even further and worsened an already deteriorating healthcare system in most countries. Thus, even though the number of STD cases dropped initially when strict stay-at-home regulations were enforced, these numbers eventually rose due to the overall incapability of the healthcare systems in both the developing and the developed world.
Moreover, the growing pandemic demanded a quick and firm response from governments across the globe. This required governments to reshuffle their efforts and resources toward the growing problem, leaving the problems that were already present to grow even bigger. In fact, during the pandemic, most of the sexual health clinics across the United States were closed, and the healthcare staff was redeployed to help in the efforts to contain the pandemic.
Thus, a combination of an already present lack of resources and a further redistribution of resources to combat the pandemic allowed STDs to become an even bigger problem as compared to in the years before the pandemic.
OTHER REASONS THAT ALLOWED A RISE IN STD CASES DURING THE PANDEMIC
While the pandemic itself contributed to the rise in STD cases as described above, there are still other reasons that propelled this growing problem even further.
A GENERAL LACK OF SEXUAL HEALTH AWARENESS
Regardless of the lack of resources, there is a general lack of sexual health awareness in many countries across the globe and especially in the United States. Many states have still not made it mandatory for kids to receive sexual health education in schools. The schools that do offer sexual health education often provide their students with outdated and ineffective information about sexual health, which only worsens the problem.
There is still a lack of urgency to adopt safe sexual behaviors in the general population. People still have a casual attitude towards sexual health and its long-term consequences on physical, reproductive, and emotional health. Many adults in the United States still do not understand the horrendous consequences of an undiagnosed and untreated sexually transmitted disease.
INCREASED DRUG USE, OPIOID AND METHAMPHETAMINE ABUSE
Another reason why sexually transmitted diseases are on the rise even in the year 2022 is rampant drug use.
People who regularly abuse drugs such as opioids and methamphetamine have an increased tendency to engage in unsafe sexual behaviors. Men who abuse methamphetamine and also have sex with other men are more likely to engage in sexual activities with multiple sexual partners, a study claims. Having more than 1 sexual partner is, of course, a direct risk factor for acquiring sexually transmitted diseases.
Women who abuse drugs such as methamphetamine and opioids are more likely to avoid health screenings when they get pregnant for fear of getting caught for their drug abuse. 1st-trimester screenings, including drug screenings, are important for pregnant women to ensure that both the mother and the baby are safe and healthy during pregnancy.
Pregnant women with STDs who never get diagnosed also do not receive effective treatment for their conditions. This lack of treatment puts the mother and the baby at an increased risk of developing serious medical conditions. For example, a pregnant mother with syphilis can give birth to children with congenital syphilis, resulting in pneumonia, blindness, and even death.
Community stigmatization is another important factor that contributes to the rise in the number of STD cases. Marginalized communities, such as the LGBTQ community and black women, already have restricted access to healthcare services in the United States. This situation is made worse when individuals are stigmatized by their communities for receiving sexual health care.
Black women, for example, are subjected to shame for receiving sexual health care because it would mean that they don’t share their community values, such as monogamy. While black women are profoundly affected by this stigmatization, this stereotype is applied to many women across many different communities.