By Audra Streetman

DENVER (CBS4) – Colorado public health agencies conducted 40% fewer tests for gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis during the COVID-19 pandemic compared to the previous year. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said the decrease in testing for sexually transmitted diseases is likely due in part to limited interactions during COVID-19.

(credit: CBS)

In an effort to reach clients during the pandemic, CDPHE began distributing home testing kits for HIV, chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis and hepatitis C. In 2020, the first year the kits were distributed, CDPHE sent out 864 home test kits.

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Health officials say the overall number of sexually transmitted infections have decreased as COVID-19 cases have increased. When COVID-19 cases decreased in Colorado, STI case numbers increased.

(credit: CBS)

Preliminary 2020 data shows a decrease in Colorado’s chlamydia and gonorrhea rates from 2019 to 2020. CDPHE reports an increase in all stages of syphilis during that time, especially congenital syphilis, which is passed on to a baby during pregnancy.

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Colorado HIV/STD Preliminary Data (2020): 

  • Chlamydia
    • 2020: 428.9 per 100,000 population
    • 2019: 505.2 per 100,000 population
  • Gonorrhea
    • 2020: 164.3 per 100,000 population
    • 2019: 164.9 per 100,000 population
  • Syphilis (all stages)
    • 2020: 28.0 per 100,000 population
    • 2019: 21.7 per 100,000 population
  • Congenital Syphilis
    • 2020: 36.6 per 100,000 live births
    • 2019: 11.1 per 100,000 live births
  • HIV 
    • 2020: 5.1 per 100,000 population
    • 2019: 7.7 per 100,000 population

During the initial pandemic response, CDPHE reassigned five HIV/STD contact tracers, known as disease intervention specialists, to help investigate the spread of COVID-19. Those specialists have since returned to their normal duties, officials said.

Two disease intervention specialists are currently acting under long-term reassignments during the pandemic. In the meantime, the state has employed temporary team members to help with the specialists’ duties pertaining to HIV and STDs.

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CDPHE also created a webpage with resources for people living with HIV during the pandemic. For more information, visit covid19.colorado.gov/covid-19-people-living-with-hiv.

Audra Streetman