THURSDAY, April 27, 2023 (HealthDay News) — Testing for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) declined significantly during the pandemic and was slow to rebound to prepandemic levels, according to a study published in the April issue of AIDS Patient Care and STDs.
Tyler N. Lescure, M.D., from Boston Medical Center, and colleagues assessed the impact of COVID-19 on STI/HIV testing at an urban safety-net hospital. Hospital-wide chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and HIV testing volume and positivity rates were compared for the prepandemic (July 1, 2019, to Feb. 29, 2020), peak-pandemic (March 1, 2020, to May 31, 2020), and post-peak-pandemic (June 1, 2020, to Aug. 31, 2021) periods.
The researchers found that STI and HIV test volume dropped sharply in March 2020, with STI testing during the peak-pandemic period only 42 percent of prepandemic baseline (mean, 1,145 versus 2,738 tests/month), reaching a low in April 2020 (766 tests/month). Similar trends were seen for peak-pandemic HIV testing, which was 43 percent of the prepandemic baseline (mean, 711 versus 1,635 tests/month), reaching a low in April 2020 of 438 tests/month. Most of these tests were concentrated in emergency department and inpatient settings. For a full year, STI and HIV testing rates did not return to baseline. Compared with the prepandemic baseline, STI and HIV test positivity rates were higher in the peak-pandemic period.
“Given the precipitous decline in STI and HIV testing during the pandemic, safety-net settings should develop low-barrier alternatives to traditional office-based testing to mitigate testing gaps, high positivity rates, and associated morbidity,” the authors write.
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