BCCDC survey finds British Columbians less worried about sexual encounters during COVID

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The BC Centre for Disease Control says many people who needed access to sexual health services during the COVID-19 pandemic have faced challenges.

In a survey of nearly 1,200 sexually transmitted infections clinic and GetCheckedOnline clients, the BCCDC found that just over half did not seek the care they needed.

The survey was conducted when BCCDC’s STI clinic saw declines in testing rates and diagnoses in the initial months of the pandemic.

"This may have led to people not getting timely STI testing or treatment, or other services such as accessing birth control medications," explains a news release.

The most common reasons people gave for avoiding or delaying seeking sexual health services were:

  • Public messages early in the pandemic to avoid seeking any healthcare that was not essential.
  • Concern about getting COVID-19 while travelling to or at a clinic or lab.
  • Closure of sexual health services due to the pandemic.

“We found that many individuals needing sexual health services did not have their needs met during the pandemic for a variety of reasons, including, but not limited to, concerns about COVID-19 transmission," said physician lead Troy Grennan.

Medical Director Mark Gilbert adds that the "silver lining" of the survey results is that people who used B.C.'s online STI testing service, GetCheckedOnline, were less likely to report unmet sexual health needs. He adds that this suggests virtual health services play an "important role in mitigating service access issues."

In the first phase of the pandemic, 65 per cent of participants reported worry about getting COVID-19 during sexual encounters. By the time of the survey in July, 26 per cent reported feeling less worried.

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