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As STIs Reach Record-High Rates, Planned Parenthood Health Centers Provide Testing and Treatment Options Throughout the Pandemic

New York, NY — As part of STD/STI Awareness Month this April, Planned Parenthood is encouraging people to take charge of their sexual health and help combat the nation’s sexually transmitted infection (STI) epidemic by getting tested for STIs, seeking the STI treatment and care they need, and talking to their partners about getting tested and practicing safer sex.

According to a new report from the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine, 1 in 5 people in the United States will have an STI in any given year, with nearly 68 million infections recorded in 2018. As the most common STI symptoms are no symptoms at all, many STIs go undetected and untreated — especially during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which has shifted public health resources away from STI care and prevention. 

Statement from Dr. Krishna Upadhya, vice president of quality care and health equity, Planned Parenthood Federation of America:

As COVID-19 has created new challenges to the way we provide health care and education across the country and STIs reach record-high rates, Planned Parenthood has remained a leader in using innovative approaches to STI testing, treatment, education, and prevention. Staying on top of your health and getting tested for STIs is just as important now as it has always been. Whether through telehealth or in-person care, Planned Parenthood health centers are making it as easy as possible to know your status and take care of your sexual health. It’s what we do — for your health, for your partners’ health, for your future.

Sexual and reproductive health care can’t wait — even during a public health crisis like COVID-19. Yet as the country continues to respond to the pandemic, STI care, including testing, treatment, and education, has taken a backseat. This disproportionately harms young people, LGBTQ+ communities, low-income communities, and communities of color who are the hardest hit by STIs.

Though people are still having sex during the pandemic, fewer people are getting the care they need, as many health care providers have de-prioritized STI care, are experiencing STI testing kit shortages, and/or reduced or eliminated in-person appointments. Two-thirds of community health centers nationwide have reported a sharp decrease in patients accessing screening and treatments due to COVID-19. A redirection of resources away from the nation’s STI programs to combat COVID-19 has resulted in a decrease in chlamydia, syphilis, and gonorrhea services, in particular.

Planned Parenthood has been working throughout the COVID-19 crisis to ensure that as many people as possible can still access critical, time-sensitive sexual health care — by expanding telehealth services and adapting how we deliver STI testing and treatment. From  March through December of 2020, Planned Parenthood health centers provided more than 2,900,000 STI tests.

Some Planned Parenthood health centers have started to offer at-home STI testing, prevention, and treatment to eliminate or reduce the need to visit a health center. This includes HIV prevention tools like PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis), a daily pill that can help prevent HIV, and PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis), a series of pills you can take after you’ve been exposed to HIV that lowers your chances of getting it. Telehealth helps to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19 for both patients and health care providers, and contributes to social distancing efforts within communities.

Planned Parenthood’s digital education resources, including our popular Chat/Text program, STD Testing Quiz, and sexual health chatbot Roo, offer medically accurate sexual health information remotely, and help connect patients to services such as STI testing and treatment at their local Planned Parenthood health center.

Knowing your status and having access to STI treatment is critical to avoiding more serious future health issues. If left untreated, STIs can cause serious health issues, such as cancer, infertility, or miscarriage. For more information about STI prevention and care available via telehealth, or to make an appointment, visit plannedparenthood.org/telehealth.

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Planned Parenthood is the nation's leading provider and advocate of high-quality, affordable health care for women, men, and young people, as well as the nation's largest provider of sex education. With more than 600 health centers across the country, Planned Parenthood organizations serve all patients with care and compassion, with respect and without judgment. Through health centers, programs in schools and communities, and online resources, Planned Parenthood is a trusted source of reliable health information that allows people to make informed health decisions. We do all this because we care passionately about helping people lead healthier lives

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