To the editor:
During the Covid-19 pandemic, New York City froze. In particular, health care services froze in their tracks under the strain and demand, and shifted to responding to this new threat to the population’s health.
Unfortunately, existing health care services and interventions not related to Covid-19 were placed on the back burner. As a result, non-Covid health issues were not prioritized, resulting in people getting sicker for a variety of reasons.
Although the pandemic was a prioritizing focus for our health department and the government, other issues did not need to be pushed to the side.
One issue that was left behind during the pandemic was the focus on reducing rates of sexually transmitted diseases, with an increase in positive cases of infection being reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2020. Due to the pandemic restrictions imposed to make people safer, many sexual health clinics and health care providers were required to reduce service or close entirely.
Additionally, government resources previously dedicated to reducing STD rates were redirected to addressing the Covid-19 pandemic. This perpetuated a scenario that allowed rates of STDs such as syphilis and gonorrhea to increase.
This scenario that was indirectly caused by the pandemic is also most harmful to adolescents and young adults who are disproportionately at risk for testing positive for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, as the CDC recommends routine testing for this age group. However, the pandemic disrupted this routine for many.
In addition, disparities for marginalized communities such as people of color and men who have sex with men were exacerbated, with men of color who had sex with men disproportionately testing positive for STDs during the pandemic.
Although the government was required to redirect national health initiatives toward addressing the pandemic, a new way forward is needed as these disparities persist and there are proven methods of addressing them. Targeted interventions are required to eliminate these disparities that utilize our local communities at the forefront of health, keeping us healthier going forward.
In addition, redirecting funding back to local organizations and health care providers that are addressing these health issues is an important start.
Go get tested, and stay safe!
The author is a master’s degree student studying public health in health policy and management at the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy