Untangling COVID-19’s Impacts on Youth STIs: Why Did New Cases of Some Infections Dip in 2020?

The burden of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) falls disproportionately on young people, in California and across the nation. Fewer than two in every 10 Californians are between ages 15 and 24, yet, for the two most commonly reported STIs—chlamydia and gonorrhea—this age group accounts for five in every 10 and three in every 10 of the state’s cases, respectively.

Rates of Reported Chlamydia and Gonorrhea Infections Among California Youth
Ages 15 to 19: 2000 to 2020

Trend graph showing rates of reported chlamydia and gonorrhea infections per 100,000 California youth ages 15 to 19, from 2000 to 2020.

Disruptions related to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 likely changed youth sexual behaviors and access to sexual health services. Less frequent sexual activity and fewer new sex partners connected with stay-at-home and social-distancing measures may have slowed STI transmission, while delays in routine health screenings and care for symptoms may have allowed untreated infections to spread. Clinic closures, limits on in-person health visits, and redirection of public health resources to COVID-19 also shifted STI screening patterns, as did supply shortages and increased unemployment (and loss of health insurance).

Compared with 2019, reported cases of chlamydia among California youth ages 10 to 19 fell sharply in 2020, from 788 infections per 100,000 youth to 573 per 100,000, echoing national trends. While rates fell in all but one county with data over this period, county-level variation remained wide, ranging from fewer than 250 cases per 100,000 to more than 800 cases per 100,000 in 2020. Most chlamydia infections are asymptomatic and only identified through screening performed during routine preventive care visits. Rates of chlamydia infection were around 3.5 times higher for female youth ages 10 to 19 than for their male counterparts in both 2019 and 2020, statewide and nationally. Untreated chlamydia puts young women at risk for serious negative reproductive health outcomes, including pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility.

Reported cases of youth gonorrhea were comparatively stable between 2019 and 2020. Nationally, the rate rose from 229 to 245 infections per 100,000 young people ages 10 to 19—an increase of around 10,000 cases. In California, the change was smaller and differed by gender. Overall, rates fell by less than one case per 100,000 youth, driven by a drop from 165 to 162 cases per 100,000 females, which offset an increase from 99 to 101 cases per 100,000 males. Although many gonorrhea infections are asymptomatic, symptoms can be painful, particularly in men.

An accurate interpretation of 2020 infection reports depends on many factors and considerations, yet chlamydia and gonorrhea, despite being largely preventable and curable, remain extremely common and costly by any measure. Read more about the impacts of COVID-19 on STI surveillance and strategies to better prevent, identify, and treat youth STIs and improve teen sexual health.

KidsData in the News

Fear vs. Fact: Children Are Sexually Abused in Humboldt at Alarming Rates, but Not at Drag Shows or by LGBTQ+ Groups

An article in the North Coast Journal cites figures derived from KidsData’s indicators of reported child maltreatment.


Data Visualization of Structural Racism and Place

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation invites proposals from interdisciplinary teams of experts in data, communications, and social change to create data visualizations that contextualize the legacy of structural racism and communicate its impact on place, health, and well-being. Submit your proposal by Friday, June 2.

Children’s Health Resources

Public Housing, Vouchers Open Doors to Better Child Health, New Research Suggests

Children in households that receive federal rental assistance are healthier and miss less school due to illness than those whose households are waiting for help. Still, up to 75% of renters who need federal housing assistance don’t receive it, and common waitlist practices disadvantage families facing the greatest hardships. A new research highlight from PRB discusses policy changes that could promote a more equitable system and lift more families out of poverty.

Fostering Youth Transitions 2023: State and National Data to Drive Foster Care Advocacy

The Annie E. Casey Foundation recently released a new analysis of data from 2006 to 2021 examining how well child welfare systems in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico support teenagers and young adults transitioning out of foster care.

School Enrollment in the United States, 2021

On Thursday, June 8, the U.S. Census Bureau will release a new report detailing school enrollment in 2021 and changes in enrollment patterns from prior years. The report will use statistics from the American Community Survey and examine public, private, and home-school enrollment from preschool through college.

Recently Released Data

We recently released data about health care, quality of care for children with special health care needs, and teen sexual health. See links to the latest here.

Posted by kidsdata.org

This entry was posted on Wednesday, May 31st, 2023 at 10:38 am. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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