COVID-19 pandemic impacting STD testing in Wake County

Wake County News

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — December is HIV/AIDs awareness month, but COVID-19 has put many health issues on the back burner.

HIV testing is allowed at the Wake County Human Services Clinic A on Sunnybrook Road in Raleigh by appointment only and because of social distancing restrictions the county is seeing a decrease in the number of people getting tested.

“HIV/AIDs is an important health matter it was here well before COVID,” said Wake County’s public health division director, Christopher Kippes.

It’s a virus that’s been here for decades, but for the first time some people are scared to leave their homes even for necessities.

Christina Adeleke with the NC AIDs Action Network (NCAAN) said, “[people] are scared to go out and be exposed to COVID-19 and that could even include getting tested for HIV and that may stop them.”

Like everything else, testing for STDs, specifically HIV/AIDs had to be shifted amid the pandemic. Wake county is now focusing on appointment only testing instead of the community walk-in clinics.

“We have to be a little more strategic in the way that we’re scheduling those clients to come in person and so that in and of itself is leading to a reduction in the number of patients we can service,” said Kippes.

“Pre-pandemic, healthcare was an issue, a lack of health care was an issue for folks so the pandemic definitely exacerbated pre-existing issues,” said Adeleke.

NCDHHS reports Wake County had 134 new cases of HIV during 2019. The final numbers for 2020 are not in yet, but the county currently has 92 new cases.

“When you have a situation where you’re not performing as many tests as you did previously, there is something that could happen where you have this explosion of cases,” said Kippes.

Kippes says another alarming trend he’s seeing right now is people not taking proper precautions when it comes to safe sex. He says the most at-risk group are those between the ages of 15 and 25.

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