UPDATE: Why Did STIs Increase In Mecklenburg County During COVID But Went Down Across The Country?

CHARLOTTE, NC. — In Mecklenburg County, Sexually Transmitted Infections, like gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis, increased by roughly 13% from January 2020 to November 2020, according to the county health department. But during a CDC STD prevention conference, experts said STI’s took a downturn nationwide in 2020. Most likely because testing for STIs was made difficult by the pandemic. Meaning there’s a likelihood STIs are going undetected.

So why did Mecklenburg County see an increase in some STIs, and the rest of the country did not? The short answer, we still don’t know, says Donna Smith, epidemiologist specialist with Mecklenburg County Public Health. She says the data is preliminary, and the increase could possibly be due to a backlog of positive cases being reported.

“There’s delays in reporting, and a lot of that has to do with when we’re looking at, for example, chlamydia and gonorrhea; these are two of the most commonly reported sexually transmitted infections across the nation. So the numbers are fairly large, and there can be a backlog in cases,” Smith says.

Despite the increase in cases, testing significantly decreased in Mecklenburg County during Covid. Matt Jenkins is the health manager with Mecklenburg County Health. He says the county stopped doing mass testing events, and there was a hesitancy in the community to get tested due to fear of Covid.

“We provide STI screening in about 20 different locations throughout Mecklenburg county.

So between March 2020 in February, mid-February 2021, we were not providing any community testing,” says Jenkins.

Smith says there’s a concern among health professionals of many STIs going undetected and how that will impact public health in the future.