Recent CDC ‘Dear Colleagues’ letter warns of “… extreme shortages of STI test kits and laboratory supplies, most notably for chlamydia and gonorrhea” and offers considerations for prioritizing testing
WASHINGTON, DC (September 25, 2020) AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) is raising alarm bells over an extreme nationwide shortage of test kits and laboratory supplies for sexually transmitted infections (STIs, often also referred to as sexually transmitted diseases or STDs), most notably, for chlamydia and gonorrhea nucleic amplification tests (CT/GC NAAT).
The news came in a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) ‘Dear Colleagues’ letter citing shortages that “… affect multiple diagnostic companies, public health and commercial laboratories, and impact several components of the specimen collection and testing process.” The CDC’s letter also offers “Considerations for prioritizing STI testing if test kits are in short supply.”
AHF, which operates 24 free STD testing and treatment centers, also known as AHF Wellness Centers, in nine states and Washington, D.C., has experienced the test kit shortages firsthand over the past two weeks. It was compelled to source kits from any and all vendors, even asking its partner AHF Healthcare Centers—which treat patients living HIV or AIDS—for surplus testing materials.
“When, or if it gets to stockouts or no supplies, it will severely limit our ability to test for chlamydia and gonorrhea,” said Whitney Engeran Cordova, Senior Director of AHF’s Public Health Division. “It’s looking like we may be out of supplies on a widescale basis next week. The CDC’s letter offers guidance that runs down a prioritization of cases for testing when supplies and kits are in short supply, but this is simply not an acceptable situation—or prudent public health policy.”
The test kit shortage, due in part to supply chain interruptions caused by the pandemic, comes at a crucial and inopportune time.
“STDs are at the highest levels ever, and continuing to grow at an accelerated pace,” said John Hassell, national director of advocacy for AHF. “State and local health departments that are largely supported by federal funding through STD prevention at CDC, have been struggling to keep up with the record numbers of new STD cases with limited and starving resources. Now, even with the funding we have, we simply cannot get the kits and supplies needed because there are few, if any to be found.”
The STD prevention program at CDC, which funds STD programs in all 50 states, and seven large cities, has remained flat-funded over the last 15 years, leaving STD programs unable to meet the increasing demands on their health staff, who provide essential safety net services, including tracking and testing pregnant women for syphilis.