New Yorkers were not only spreading COVID-19 during the height of the pandemic but they also appeared to have increased the rate of some sexually transmitted infections.
According to a new report by the City Department of Health, the transmission rates of syphilis in its first two of four stages increased 9% for men and 24% for women from 2019 to 2020. The rates of gonorrhea also increased 5% for women but decreased 19% for men.
However, the rates for chlamydia significantly lowered for both men (29%) and women (23%) during the same time period, the DOH said, adding that preliminary data may be subject to change.
“We know that sexually transmitted infection (STI) transmission has continued throughout the COVID-19 public health emergency, however many New Yorkers did not seek routine testing last year,” Health Commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi said in a statement, urging New Yorkers to get tested and utilize the city's sexual health services.
The latest data from early 2021 indicate that numbers of reported STIs are rebounding to levels observed in 2019, though chlamydia cases are still much lower.
During the state's PAUSE shutdown, DOH said there were fewer positive tests of HIV, gonorrhea, chlamydia and P&S syphilis but the numbers have also mostly returned to pre-pandemic levels. This may be due to changes in sexual relationships due to COVID-19 and New Yorkers being less likely to get tested during the pandemic because of reduced services or because they've been told to only seek care for emergencies.
Gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis can be treated and are curable but they can cause long-term effects if left untreated, health officials said. They can also make it easier to get or transmit HIV but STIs are preventable by correctly using latex condoms during sexual encounters.