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Sexually transmitted infection (STI) trends in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK

Photos of Stephanie Migchelson, Tami Sonubi and Natasha Ratna
From left to right: Stephanie Migchelson, Tami Sonubi and Natasha Ratna

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on sexual health service utilisation by men who have sex with men (MSM) in England 

In the first talk, Stephanie Migchelsen will share with the audience how the COVID-19 pandemic has severely impacted the delivery of sexual health services (SHSs). Stephanie and her team investigated changes in service use by MSM before and during the pandemic with a focus on inequalities. 

Reduced SHS attendances amongst MSM in 2020 are thought to be due to urgent and complex cases being prioritised; face-to-face services being reduced; or reduced sexual mixing. Analysis of data from 2021 and beyond will be required to better understand the impact of social restrictions put in place to limit the spread of Covid-19 on longer term consequences on inequalities in sexual health. 

The impact of COVID-19 on sexual risk behaviour, service use and STI testing of young people in England 

The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in national lockdown measures with the aim of stopping the spread of the virus. In the second talk, Tami Sonubi will explore how the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions affected the delivery of SHSs across England. This study aimed to assess the impact of COVID-19 on sexual risk behaviour, service use and STI testing in young people aged 15 to 24 years, the age-group with the highest diagnosis rates of STIs.  

Ethnic variations in sexual risk behaviour, sexual health service use and unmet need during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic 

There are disproportionately higher rates of STIs among some Black communities in England. In the third talk, Natasha Ratna will examine if sexual risk behaviour, sexual health service use and unmet need varied by ethnicity during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. Two independent national data sources showed ethnic inequalities in sexual health persisted during the first year of the pandemic with evidence of more unmet need among people of Black or Asian ethnicities. 

Speakers

Stephanie Migchelson 

Stephanie Migchelsen started her academic career in Canada, then moved to the Netherlands, completing her MSc in Biomedical Sciences, with a research focus in Parasitology & Tropical Medicine at Universiteit Utrecht as well as the Instituto Nacional de Parasitologia, Buenos Aires and the Koninklijk Instituut voor de Tropen (Royal Tropical Institute) Amsterdam. She completed her PhD in Tropical Medicine at LSHTM, determining the use of Chlamydia trachomatis antibodies as a means of monitoring intervention activities to eliminate trachoma as a public health problem.  

At UK Health Security Agency, she is Principal Scientist for GUMCAD STI Surveillance System, leading a team of eight. GUMCAD is the mandatory national surveillance system that collect data on all STI tests and diagnoses from commissioned sexual health services in England. 

Tami Sonubi 

Tami completed her MSc in Epidemiology at LSHTM in 2019 with a research focus on seasonal malaria chemoprevention and resistant parasites in children in Burkina Faso. At the UK Health Security Agency, Tami works as a Senior HIV/STI Surveillance and Prevention Scientist in the Chlamydia Testing Activity Dataset (CTAD) team. CTAD is the national surveillance system that collects data on all chlamydia tests conducted in England and is an essential source of data to monitor the National Chlamydia Screening Programme.  

Tami has contributed to several national STI epidemiology reports and has conducted research investigating inequalities in chlamydia screening. Tami has also contributed to the national COVID-19 response as a surveillance scientist, and has contributed to research investigating ethnic disparities in COVID. She also assisted with the international response and contact tracing. 

Natasha Ratna 

For the last 8 years, Natasha Ratna has worked as an epidemiologist with a focus on the sexual and reproductive health surveillance. At the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), she has led and coordinated the annual official STI statistics in England for the past 3 consecutive years, and supervised numerous research projects. Natasha was recently appointed an honorary research associate with UCL and is leading on an analysis of ethnic inequalities in sexual health using data from a large, population-based survey and the national STI surveillance system.  

She obtained her MSc in Epidemiology at LSHTM and BSc (Hons) Microbiology (Biotechnology) from the University of Surrey, after which she worked with UKHSA and its predecessors Public Health England and Health Protection Agency since mid 2007. 

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