Sexually transmitted diseases grow in Alabama after a pandemic falls; these counties recorded the highest rates of sexually transmitted diseases in 2021. –

Alabama – and the rest of the nation – have seen a significant drop in reported sexually transmitted diseases in 2020. But that doesn’t mean the number of cases has actually dropped – and if the 2021 figures are any guide, it’s probably the opposite.

According to data from Alabama Department of Public Healthsexually transmitted diseases in Alabama increased dramatically between 2020 and 2021. But cases are not evenly distributed across the state.

Sexually transmitted diseases by counties

Sexually transmitted disease rates vary widely by county, with some areas above 22 cases per 1,000 population and in some less than three per 1,000. You can see the rate in each Alabama district on the map below.

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The Black Belt region – one of the poorest regions in the state – recorded some of the highest sexually transmitted disease rates in the state in 2021. Each of the six Alabama counties with the highest sexually transmitted disease rates was in the Black Belt, including the heavily populated Montgomery County, home of the main city ​​of state, where a rate of 18.7 cases per 1,000 people was recorded, the second highest in Alabama.

Jefferson County, home of Birmingham and the most populous county in Alabama, recorded nearly 15 cases per 1,000, the seventh highest rate in the state. Mobile County, the second largest county in Alabama, is just within the top 20 in terms of sexually transmitted diseases, with 11.8 per 1,000 residents. Madison County, home of Huntsville – Alabama’s largest city – ranked 25th out of 67 counties with a sexually transmitted disease rate of 10.3 per 1,000.

Each of these large counties had a higher rate than the state as a whole, which was 9.9 cases per 1000.

Covid dip

The number of sexually transmitted diseases across the state increased in 2021, especially cases of chlamydia, by far the most common type of sexually transmitted disease in the state. But cases of gonorrhea and syphilis have also increased.

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ADPH reports that in 2021, there were more than 31,400 chlamydia in Alabama, compared to 27,000 in 2020. That’s a difference of more than 4,000 cases, or an increase of 16%. The number for 2021 is a slight increase from pre-pandemic levels, and the total number of sexually transmitted diseases has been steadily rising since the middle of the last decade.

But the difference from year to year from 2020 to 2021 is probably not because of a big change in real cases, but because of a big change in testing, says Dr. Jodie Dionne, an associate professor of medicine in the infectious diseases department at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

“Starting in March 2020, there has been a drop in testing for sexually transmitted diseases by about 25 percent,” she said. “That’s because the clinics are closed.”

COVID-19 has stopped almost every aspect of life, including testing for sexually transmitted diseases. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also warns that 2020 figures are not taken too literally due to reduced screening across the country and other complications due to the pandemic.

But just because clinics have closed and testing has fallen doesn’t mean sexually transmitted diseases haven’t spread. And in many cases, testing is crucial because many sexually transmitted diseases will not be caught without a test.

“Most sexually transmitted diseases, especially in women, are asymptomatic,” Dionne said. “If we don’t do this testing, we miss new infections because most people feel pretty good.”

And if testing is reduced by 25%, then experts worry that they will miss 25% of cases, she said.

But there is at least one good thing that has emerged from the pandemic – the emergence of home testing. Home kits for testing on COVID-19 are now widely available across the United States, and that change in thinking could extend to other forms of health diagnostics, Dionne said. This includes a future in which people can be tested for sexually transmitted diseases in the comfort of their own homes.

Dionne mentioned the state pilot program from ADPH who currently has limited resources but is experimenting with this home testing.

“These are not complicated tests – just like the COVID test,” she said. “People often prefer to do them alone.”

Do you have an idea for a story about Alabama data? Email Ramsey Archibald to [email protected]and follow him on Twitter @RamseyArchibald. Read more stories about data from Alabama here.

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