Sexually Transmitted Infection Awareness Week: STI cases increase in pandemic’s wake

Cases of syphilis in North Carolina have been rising in recent years.
Cases of syphilis in North Carolina have been rising in recent years.(Laura Bowen)
Published: Apr. 12, 2023 at 2:18 PM EDT
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RALEIGH, N.C. (WITN) - This week is Sexually Transmitted Infection Awareness Week, and according to a new report, sexually transmitted infections, or STIs, have seen a significant increase in the number of cases in North Carolina

According to the report from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, syphilis cases overall jumped 23% from 2021 to 2022, and the rate was even higher in women with the same report showing an increase in the number of cases in women of 133% from 2019 to 2022. The report also showed an increase in congenital syphilis in babies as well.

The report pointed to several reasons for the increases including a lack of testing for STIs prior to sexual activity as well as a lack of condom use.

NCDHHS says that during the Covid-19 pandemic, many people delayed regular STI testing, which the department says is one of the main strategies to reduce the risk and spread of syphilis. Other strategies recommended by NCDHHS to reduce risk include being in a monogamous relationship, knowing the sexual activities of your partners, and properly using condoms.

North Carolina public health law requires healthcare providers to screen all pregnant women for syphilis during the first prenatal visit, between 28-30 weeks gestation, and at delivery to ensure identification, treatment, and prevention of congenital syphilis.

NCDHHS Division of Public Health’s Communicable Disease Branch Chief Evelyn Foust says that sexually transmitted infections are preventable. “We need to empower ourselves to learn about them, how to talk about them, when to test for them, and where to go for care and treatment — and what better time to have conversations than during STI Awareness Week,” she said.

To find nearby, free STD testing sites, visit DHHS says Medicaid expansion will give more people coverage for routine testing and treatment. For more information on syphilis, visit the NCDHHS website.