Syphilis rates experienced the highest annual increase in more than 70 years. If enforced domestically, the ruling could deprive nearly 170 million Americans of insurance coverage for preventive care services, such as STD testing. In addition, opioid and methamphetamine use, which increased significantly during the pandemic, is causing more HIV and hepatitis infections among people who share needles and the spread of other STDs, as more and more people are exchanging sex for drugs and having unprotected sex. Leandro Mena, director of CDC's STD Prevention Division, told POLITICO that the chronic lack of funding for public health programs is largely to blame.
Instead, the disruption of Covid exacerbated problems caused by years of budget cuts to STD programs and the widespread stigmatization of poor people of color and LGBTQ communities, where infection rates tend to be higher, according to health experts and government officials. In particular, healthcare workers and government officials fear that a lawsuit backed by former Trump administration officials could further worsen the STD crisis. Workers who had been tracing contacts for sexually transmitted diseases were reassigned to Covid, meaning that fewer people were notified that they had been exposed. They're also driving higher rates, Mena said, the decline in condom use, particularly among young people, and taboos around sex that discourage people from talking to their primary care doctors about preventing and treating STDs.
Lawmakers and Democratic advocates see the case as a potential cataclysm, warning that it could increase health insurance premiums, generate high out-of-pocket costs that deter people from seeking testing and treatment for STDs, and slow progress in treating chronic and infectious diseases. Public health officials warn that their scarce resources could be further limited and that outbreaks could proliferate if a lawsuit in Texas succeeds in eliminating the Obamacare requirement that insurance cover services such as STD testing and drugs for HIV prevention.