Sexually Transmitted Infections in the Shadow of Novel Coronavirus Disease 2019
Hokkaido University School of Medicine
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought unprecedented challenges to healthcare systems globally, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. This has necessitated a reevaluation of strategies against infectious diseases in the post-COVID-19 era. Crucially, the conversation around sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in developed countries demands attention.
During the pandemic, the global healthcare focus on COVID-19 often overshadowed other infectious diseases, including STIs. For instance, in 2022, Japan witnessed a record high of 12,964 syphilis cases, primarily transmitted through sexual contact. This surge is linked to factors like increased casual sexual encounters, the popularity of dating apps, and a reduction in STI testing and sexual health services during the pandemic. Alarmingly, this trend is not unique to Japan; a CDC report showed increases in chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis rates globally in 2021.
The post-COVID-19 discourse on infectious diseases must include STIs. Ignoring them could lead to higher morbidity, mortality, and economic burdens. Global mobility further exacerbates their spread. Thus, addressing COVID-19 while also combating STIs is crucial for a comprehensive global health approach.
The asymptomatic nature of many STIs highlights the importance of diagnostic testing. However, the availability of tests alone isn't enough. Creating an environment where at-risk individuals are informed and comfortable accessing these services is essential, as societal stigma around STIs often discourages people from seeking help. The rise of telemedicine during the COVID-19 pandemic offers a solution, enabling private and convenient access to STI testing and treatment online. While countries like the US and UK are leading in this area, its potential is yet to be fully realized in others, including Japan.
In conclusion, the complexities of STIs must be equally emphasized. As the world progresses, collaborative and proactive strategies for comprehensive STI testing and treatment are vital. Learning from COVID-19 and integrating these insights into our preparedness for future pandemics is imperative.
Furthermore, I have published a paper on the topic of sexually transmitted infections under the COVID-19 pandemic, which delves deeper into this issue. I invite you to read it for a more comprehensive understanding. The paper can be accessed at the following link: (PDF) Beyond coronavirus: Addressing the escalation of sexually transmitted infections in Japan (researchgate.net)
This work further elaborates on the challenges and potential strategies to address this pressing health concern.