Sexually transmitted diseases are on the rise across the world, but in the United States case numbers are currently at epidemic levels.
The latest data from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows STD cases reached an all-time high for the sixth consecutive year in 2019.
This includes 2.5 million reported cases of chlamydia, gonorrhoea, and syphilis, the three most reported STDs – a near 30% increase between 2015 and 2019.
It also estimated that one in five US residents had an STD at some point in 2018, with almost half of new infections in people aged under 25.
However, it is feared that even more infections have happened over the last two years and that the current figures are now much higher.
One of the things exacerbating this latest public health crisis appears to be the last public health crisis – the Covid-19 pandemic.
It’s thought that lockdowns, stay at home orders and other restrictions introduced to control the spread of Covid over the last two years also hampered testing efforts for STDs.
Testing is crucial to control the spread of STDs, especially because some diseases like chlamydia and gonorrhoea can at first appear without symptoms.
During the pandemic, the number of STD tests declined dramatically, while at the same time health providers prioritised symptomatic cases. Now there are fears the epidemic is out of control.
Despite being largely preventable and treatable, if left untreated STDs can have serious and lasting health complications.
They can also cost governments and societies billions of dollars in health costs, which is why quick and accurate detection is key.
Rapid testing with data capture is one solution
To get the STD epidemic under control, governments and health authorities are starting to adopt the same attitude to testing that they had during the pandemic.
Point-of-care tests using lateral flow technology are already available for most STDs. Using urine samples or oral swabs, these tests are highly sensitive, easy to use and provide results within minutes.
For the end user, they take away the potential embarrassment of attending a sexual health clinic or seeing a doctor, which is often a factor that contributes to low testing levels.
Most importantly of all for tackling an epidemic, lateral flow tests can be quickly mass produced and distributed and they are affordable for the end user.
But, as with Covid, one of the best tools for controlling a disease outbreak is data.
Knowing where a particular disease is circulating and how quickly it is spreading is crucial to bringing it under control.
So, STD tests that come with a digitally connected app, cloud and dashboard data management system – like Transform® – are even more valuable.
Using a smartphone app, the end user can capture their test results along with associated data such as symptoms, medication etc.
This data can be stored securely and anonymously in the cloud and accessed by health professionals on a dashboard system in real time, where STD hotspots can be highlighted and trends can be identified.
Experts are already worried about STD numbers, but they fear the real scale of the epidemic might be even bigger because of the number of missed cases.
A large-scale screening programme using digitally connected lateral flow tests to gather data could not only give a more accurate picture of the situation, but it could also prompt more people to seek treatment and change their behaviour, thus curbing the spread.
If you’re a lateral flow test provider who’d like to integrate Transform® into your STD test offer, book a demo with us today. Transform® can be set up and ready to deploy in as little as six weeks on a straightforward monthly subscription.