The pandemic has disrupted many parts of our lives, testing for sexually transmitted diseases included. Between clinic closures and supply shortages, a lot of tests have been delayed, as testing rates plunged over the past several months. So consider this your reminder that if you’re at risk for an STD, you should make sure to seek out testing, even if it’s more inconvenient than usual.
The CDC’s recommendations for STI testing are here. The recommendations vary depending on who you are and whether you have sex with multiple partners each year. Many of us should be getting tested at least once a year for gonorrhea, chlamydia, and, in some cases, HIV and syphilis.
Unfortunately, chlamydia and gonorrhea test kits are in short supply right now. The Department of Health and Human Services recently sent a letter to providers recommending that people at the highest levels of risk, including people who are pregnant and men who have sex with men, be prioritized in testing. They also noted that if someone has a confirmed case of chlamydia or gonorrhea, it may make sense to start their partner(s) on treatment without waiting for test results.
To make things extra fun, there is now also a shortage of azithromycin, one of the antibiotics commonly used to treat chlamydia and gonorrhea. Every time you see a quack get on Youtube tell their followers to take “hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin and zinc” to prevent COVID (which doesn’t work, by the way), they’re affecting the availability of necessary drugs for people with STIs.
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Tests for other STIs aren’t necessarily affected by the shortages, even as some clinics may not be back to full operation, which complicates things. If you have symptoms or if you’re in a high risk group, reach out to your provider or your local sexual health clinic and ask what they can do. Often they’ll have options for you. For example, some clinics are closed for exams and other routine care, but will still do screenings.
There are also home tests for HIV and mail-in tests for other STIs, like the ones available at Let’s Get Checked. Companies that sell these tests often don’t accept insurance, but do accept FSA and HSA cards. If you put off an STI test this spring when things closed down for the pandemic, take some time now to check out your options and make sure to get a test if you need one.