When someone contracts a sexually transmitted infection, it is highly recommended that they seek medical treatement from a physician. However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, people have been taking matters into their own hands. According to a study done by Testing.com, 42% of people have tried treating themselves for STD’s during the COVID-19 pandemic. The study also found that over 60 % people did research on their symptoms and treatment at home because “they had difficulty consulting a doctor or other professional” and haven’t gone to a doctor’s office due to fear of contracting COVID-19 at a testing facility.
“I think these statistics speak to our failure as a developed society to make healthcare accessible and affordable for all,” Erica Zelfand, ND and Expert at Testing.com said. “Sexually transmitted infections still carry stigma, and many patients remember the not-so-distant past in which one’s health insurance would be flagged if they received STI testing – even if the result was negative. Leaving an STI untreated, or under-treated, can have serious health consequences. For example, a woman with gonorrhea or chlamydia can develop pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), which can harm her future fertility and cause chronic pelvic pain…The importance of early detection and prompt treatment with any STI cannot be overstated.”
According to the National Coalition of STD Directors, 80% of sexual health screening clinics were either shut down and had limited hours during the pandemic. In October 2020, the New York Times reported that only eight testing facilities were open during the spring and October only three were open and overcrowded.
At-home STI testing kits to use at home have been a resource as well, which 16% of respondents used and over 80% of participants said insurance covered some or all of the at-home testing cost.
“Even before the stay-at-home order went into effect, many of my patients preferred to do at-home testing,” Zelfand added. “Going to a commercial lab is inconvenient for many, after all, and some health insurance companies do cover some tests collected at home.”