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Planned Parenthood Health Centers Provided More Than 2.9 Million STI Tests Since April, as STI Rates Continue to Rise in the U.S During Pandemic


New York, NY — February is the month of Valentine’s Day and National Condom Week, and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and rising STI rates mean that figuring out how to connect with others while keeping ourselves and our partners safe may be a little more challenging this year. As people continue to date, partner, and have sex, Planned Parenthood is here with guidance to help people stay healthy and sexy — and Planned Parenthood health centers continue providing in-person and telehealth services, including STI testing and treatment.

No matter if you’re single, coupled, throupled, or FWB-ed this February, Planned Parenthood is here to help you feel the love as safely as possible, over Valentine’s Day and throughout the pandemic.

Dr. Sara C. Flowers, vice president of education & training, Planned Parenthood Federation of America:

Self-care is more important than ever as we continue to endure the stress and challenges from the past year, and safer sex is a form of self-care. Yes, you can have sexual pleasure and feel connected to others while protecting your health. Planned Parenthood is here to help you get more comfortable talking with your partners about intimacy, personal boundaries, and protecting yourselves from both COVID-19 and sexually transmitted infections.

Some facts to consider before spreading those rose petals on the bedspread: 

  • According to the National Coalition of STD Directors, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has limited the availability of testing and treatment services for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) — which means more STIs are going undetected and untreated during the pandemic.
  • At the same time, STI rates are higher than they’ve ever been. According to 2018 data from the CDC, STIs — including chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis — were at a record-high for the fifth consecutive year.
  • The pandemic may be helping the rise of “super gonorrhea,” a strain of the gonorrhea bacteria with a high level of resistance to the antibiotics normally used to cure this STI. 
  • COVID-19 may be getting more contagious; the CDC forecasts between 1.1 and 2 million new cases just ahead of Valentine’s Day. It’s still true that being in close contact with others puts you (and them) at risk for COVID-19.
  • Research released last month shows that social distancing has fallen dramatically since last April as adults in the U.S. give in to “pandemic fatigue.”

That list may have raised your stress levels. But one place you shouldn’t have to stress is your sex life — so here are some facts to help you feel good about your Valentine’s Day options: 

  • Sales of sex toys have risen during the pandemic. For many, it’s been a great time to try something new in the bedroom, either solo or with a partner. Sexual pleasure is also self-care!
  • When you’re sexing up your special someone, condoms and dental dams are one way to lower your stress levels, since they help prevent STIs — letting you focus on the fun stuff.
  • The pandemic has made clear the importance of open, honest communication with those we’re close to — about personal boundaries, comfort levels around personal health and safety (ours and others’), and how we might spend time with loved ones while respecting their needs and wants. These communication skills are 100% useful when talking with sexual or romantic partners about topics like STIs and getting tested, or using condoms or other barrier methods to protect your sexual health.

We know that starting a conversation about safer sex might feel uncomfortable — and we’re here to help. Dr. Flowers talked with Refinery29 earlier this week about having conversations with partners about personal boundaries, minimizing the risk of COVID-19 as well as STIs, getting tested, and staying healthy. Look for those tips on Refinery29’s Instagram page, Sunday, February 14.

Dr. Flowers also talks about safer sex during a pandemic in her new Medium piece, “During a pandemic, ‘safer sex’ takes on additional meanings. The hard truth is that a year later, COVID-19 is still here and may be getting more contagious — so it’s more important than ever to take actions that care for yourself and your partner(s).”

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 — including expanding telehealth services and adapting how we deliver STI testing and treatment. From  March—December of 2020, Planned Parenthood health centers provided:

  • More than 2,900,000 STI tests
  • More than 109,000 breast exams and more than 113,000 Pap tests
  • More than 2,700,000 birth control appointments
  • More than 385,000 prescriptions for emergency contraception
  • More than 2,800,000 patient visits, including more than half a million visits via telehealth

Everyone deserves the fun, healthy sex life they want. As the nation’s largest provider of sex education, Planned Parenthood has digital education programs that help people make the best decisions for them when it comes to sex and relationships.

  • Visit plannedparenthood.org for education on talking with a partner about STIs and safer sex, including our STD video series.
  • Planned Parenthood’s chatbot Roo is available to answer sexual health questions 24/7 for free on your smartphone.
  • Chat/Text allows young people in need of personalized, confidential help to have real-time conversations with trained health educators via text or chat and get accurate information about their sexual health. The largest service of its kind, the Chat/Text program has users in all 50 states and has held more than 1.5 million conversations since its start in 2010.
  • Chatea/Textea, an innovative bilingual resource for sexual health questions to connect users via instant message or text with trained health educators who can answer their questions and provide critical sexual health information in Spanish and English.

STI prevention is a core part of Planned Parenthood’s health care services and education efforts. We work every day to ensure that people have access to high-quality, affordable health care and accurate, nonjudgmental sexual health information, no matter who they are, where they live, or where they’re from. To find a Planned Parenthood health center offering telehealth or in-person appointments near you, or to find more information about STIs, visit plannedparenthood.org.

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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