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Health

STIs On The Rise In Mecklenburg County Amid Pandemic

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The number of sexually-transmitted infections in Mecklenburg County is increasing amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The county reported 6,161 cases of chlamydia from January to August of this year -- an increase of 10% from the same time in 2019, according to preliminary numbers. Gonorrhea cases jumped by 46% to 2,719. Mecklenburg County Public Health Director Gibbie Harris presented the numbers to county commissioners Tuesday night.

“Nationwide, STI rates were already at all-time highs before COVID-19,” said Patrick Summers, Director of Strategic Initiatives at Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, which has 14 clinic locations across North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia.

“Now we know that they’re surging across the country. And as these rates are on the rise, access to STD and HIV testing and treatment services are evaporating,” he said.

Sixty-six percent of 230 clinics surveyed across the U.S. reported a decrease in sexual health screening and testing, according to an April report from the National Coalition of STD Directors.

“The public health emergency response to COVID-19 continues to cause mass scale disruptions to the STD prevention field and to STD clinical services in the U.S.,” said the report.

“We know that there are many more cases that are going undetected right now,” Summers said.

Providers are also starting to see a shortage of supplies like swabs, which are used for gonorrhea and chlamydia testing along with COVID-19 testing. The CDC issued a letter on Sept. 8 with advice on how to ration testing supplies and prioritize patients.