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STD testing shortage due to rise in COVID testing

Published: Nov. 16, 2020 at 9:05 AM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - A national shortage of STD testing materials has caused the Vermont Department of Health to prioritize testing based on CDC guidelines.

While the health department says there is no need for fear, they do say there are ways to help aid them in the shortage of STD testing supplies.

Meanwhile, they’re forced to prioritize their testing.

“The same tools that are used for testing STD specimens are the same tools that are used for COVID," said Daniel Daltry, the program chief for HIV, STD and Hepatitis C at the Vermont Department of Health.

He says with widespread COVID-19 testing, there has been a drain on STD testing supplies. That means a priority system is needed.

“Prioritization of cases goes back to what the CDC has set as part of their STD treatment guidelines in 2015," said Daltry.

Daltry says the top priorities are females ages 25-44 who are pregnant or those seeking to be pregnant who need to be tested. Males who are symptomatic of an STD are also a top priority to identify active infection.

The priorities are set by the CDC and prioritize the most at-risk populations.

“It’s based upon data of cases and also the complications that are associated with these infections in certain populations," said Daltry.

Daltry says the shortage is concerning because of those who are asymptotic and could spread disease without knowing it. But the bottom line is clear.

“If you feel something, you might know something, get a test," said Daltry.

The typical avenues that people may go to get tested for HIV or an STD might not be an option.

Centers like the Pride Center Vermont recommend sexually active people get screened for STDs every three to six months. But they can’t currently administer HIV testing themselves. They say even as a sex-positive organization, it’s better to be safe, so testing is not needed.

“In the middle of a pandemic, the safest thing to do is to have one or no partners," said Reggie Condra, a health and wellness coordinator with the Vermont Pride Center.

Condra says they have been encouraging people to seek testing at places like Planned Parenthood or through your health care provider.

But with a shortage of testing materials and COVID cases on the rise, he recommends finding safer ways to minimize risk.

“Cases are spiking all over the country so be creative,” said Condra.

Limiting yourself to one or no partners during the pandemic doesn’t mean you can’t express yourself sexually.

“There are different ways of sexual expression. Masturbation, virtual sex... really easy free ways to do these things," said Condra.

The idea is to cut down on contact with other people not only to stop the spread of STDs when there is a shortage of tests but also to eliminate the threat of COVID-19, as well.

Daltry says this is a concern they are looking at closely because they never want to see people without access to testing. But he does say he believes this is only a slight moment in time and things will be back to normal soon.

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