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July 14, 2021

Experts predict a rise in sexually transmitted infections this summer

Reported STIs reached an all-time high in 2019, and after a drop in testing during the COVID-19 pandemic, experts say a spike in cases this summer is likely

Adult Health STDs
071421-sexually-transmitted-diseases-rise-covid.jpg Photo by rawpixel/on Unsplash

Sexually transmitted infections are predicted to spike this summer as more people get vaccinated and social restrictions ease, causing people make up for lost time during the pandemic.

As COVID-19 vaccination rates rise across the country, more events and businesses are slated to make a comeback. 

However, infectious disease specialists warn that sexually transmitted infections are expected to spike this summer as well.

During the pandemic, some people were having less sex because of social distancing and increased levels of stress. But now that social restrictions are relaxing, vaccinated people are gearing up for "hot vax summer" to make up for lost time during the pandemic, CNN reports.

"We are expecting the summer of love. People are going to be connecting this summer as they come out of the pandemic and we think that is, unfortunately, going to drive STI rates even higher," David Harvey, executive director of the National Coalition of STD Directors, told NBC News. 

Reported STIs have exploded in the United States over the past few years. In 2019, they reached an all-time high for the sixth year in a row, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

There were more than 2.5 million cases reported. Chlamydia cases have risen 19% since 2015 and Gonorrhea cases have jumped by 56%. Most alarmingly, syphilis cases skyrocketed by 74% during the same time period. 

Male condom sales rose 23.4% to $37 million in April, compared to the same month in 2020. Experts say that while people are expected to have more casual sex, they are also expected to screen for STIs less. 

A study from the National Library of Medicine showed that 45-77% of gonorrhea and chlamydia infections were asymptomatic, meaning those infected unknowingly spread the condition to future partners.

Screenings for STIs were already down significantly during the pandemic, according to a study from May 2021. 

Women's screenings dropped 59% and men's dropped by 63% — which could account for 27,659 undiagnosed chlamydia and 5,557 missed gonorrhea cases from March to June 2020, Insider reported.

Experts said there are plenty of ways to have safer sex:

• Use a barrier method of contraception, like a condom or dental dam, with your partner.

• Take an STI test after having sex with your partner. There are several at-home, postal options.

• Don't be afraid to ask questions about your sexual health or talk to your partner about what works for you.

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