Post-pandemic rise in sexually transmitted diseases imminent, experts warn

Photo courtesy of MGN

Public health experts worry that a 'hot vax summer' could lead to new spikes in infections spread through sex

Posted: Jul 6, 2021 9:55 AM

NBC News - As Americans start to emerge from the pandemic, public health experts and doctors have a dire warning about a possible new health crisis this summer, one that involves a different type of infection: sexually transmitted diseases.

“We are expecting the summer of love,” said David Harvey, executive director of the National Coalition of STD Directors. “People are going to be connecting this summer as they come out of the pandemic and we think that is unfortunately going to drive STI rates even higher,” he said, referring to sexually transmitted infections.

Already many Americans are throwing away masks and preparing for a modern-day version of the Roaring '20s, complete with partying, drinking and, yes, lots of casual sex.

"It’s about making up for lost time,” dating expert and internet personality Serena Kerrigan said. “We’re literally burning our tie-dye sweatpants and people are really excited to go out and look good and feel good.”

Her attitude about the summer seems to align with a wider feeling of people being ready to emerge from their pandemic cocoons.

But public health experts are warning about an expected explosion of STDs that started even before the pandemic hit.

STDs have been skyrocketing for years. More than 2.5 million infections were reported in 2019, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released in May. Cases of chlamydia have increased by 19 percent since 2015. Gonorrhea was up 56 percent in the same time period. Even more alarming, syphilis jumped 74 percent.

“It was the sixth consecutive year of the highest STI numbers in American history,” Harvey said. “Those numbers were only made worse by the pandemic,” as clinics shuttered and the number of people getting tested tanked.

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