STI rates higher now than pre-pandemic

Header image for the article STI rates higher now than pre-pandemic Credit: DYLAN CHARETTE
Lower numbers accessing sexual health resources such as STI testing are partly due to people not feeling comfortable attending a clinic during the pandemic.

The pandemic created a force for people to become more aware and protective of their health, yet many people are also neglecting to take care of proper sexual health practices.

Lower numbers accessing sexual health resources such as STI testing are partly due to people not feeling comfortable attending a clinic during the pandemic. With an already heavy stigma regarding STIs and testing, health officials are urging people to be more mindful of their sexual health and to take steps for proper testing.

Before transitioning to pandemic cautionary measures, the Middlesex-London Health Unit (MLHU) used to have three clinics a week, which have now been reduced to two, for sexual health resources.

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Despite the clinics being available by appointments only, MLHU has been mindful that many in the community do not have access to a phone or cannot book an appointment. For these cases, the MLHU provides some space for walk-ins.

MLHU Sexual Health Manager Shaya Dhinsa highlighted the rates of STI infections might be higher now than pre-pandemic, despite calls for social distancing and stay-at-home orders.

“My one concern is that the STI rates might be higher than what they actually are. Because I do feel people are still having sexual contact, but they are not comfortable coming in and getting tested, and therefore unknowingly, they may not have symptoms. Then they are unknowingly spreading that STI.”

In the United States, 2019 marked the sixth consecutive year for record-breaking STDs reported by the CDC, with 2.6 million cases.

“That is concerning to me, so I do hope in the future we can add back our third clinic, which will make it another day or time that would work for individuals to access our services,” said Dhinsa. “Or that we can have more ability to have walk-ins. I do know that is a barrier for some individuals. But I do have a concern that post-pandemic, there might be an influx of STIs.”

Although MLHU has lost a sexual health clinic, Dhinsa called London lucky, as some areas do not have STI clinics available and shared the MLHU is open to any individual who chooses to come by and access them.

The sexual health clinic is currently open Monday and Wednesday, beginning at 4:30 p.m., with the last available appointment booking time at 7 p.m. Clients can call to have their nursing assessment done over the phone and will be able to see the physician upon their appointment time.