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It is unclear how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected sexual behaviour and the transmission of STIs. Reports suggest a decline in STIs during the first COVID-19 lockdown attributed variously to fewer sexual encounters1 and decreased testing or case reporting.2 However, in some settings, diagnoses of symptomatic STIs appeared to remain unchanged.3
Neisseria gonorrhoeae (NG) infection of the male urethra causes symptoms in >90% of individuals but is mostly asymptomatic at other sites. As symptoms usually present within 5 days of exposure and unpleasant enough to seek assistance, urethral NG is a potential marker of recent sexual behaviour.4 First-line NG treatment is a single-dose ceftriaxone injection administered at medical services, whereas other STIs are standardly treated using oral antibiotics which can be sent by post or purchased online.
On 23 March 2020, following instructions to avoid unnecessary travel and non-essential contact with others, the UK government introduced measures to reduce the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 including home isolation and social distancing, although individuals could travel for medical care. From 13 May 2020, England’s lockdown gradually eased.
In 2018, 56 Dean Street (56DS), a sexual health clinic part of Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, …
Handling editor Anna Maria Geretti
Collaborators The Dean Street Collaborative Group comprises Keerti Gedela, Nicolo Girometti, Sheena McCormack, Alan McOwan, Diarmuid Nugent, Sheel Patel, Tara Suchak, Victoria Tittle, Gary Whitlock.
Contributors All authors contributed equally to the research.
Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.
Competing interests None declared.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.