From STIs to malaria, here are six disease trends we should heed during the pandemic

Stuart Ralph, University of Melbourne and Jacqueline Coombe, University of Melbourne

The number of COVID-19 deaths globally – more than 750,000 – is now greater than the amount of people who succumb to malaria most years.

Meanwhile, national statistics show lockdown restrictions in Australia have potentially helped reduce the number of flu cases.

So while the pandemic continues to have a huge impact on global health, here are some of the known and likely impacts the virus is having on six other major health challenges.

The results might surprise you.

1. Sexually transmitted infections

Some dating apps such as Tinder and Bumble report an increase in online activity, but is this translating to an increase of meet-ups for sexual activity despite the lockdown?

Researchers from the University of Melbourne are investigating these and other questions in a survey examining the sexual and reproductive health impacts of COVID-19.

Although this research is ongoing, preliminary analysis suggests a decline in sexual activity among those without cohabitating partners during lockdown, and an increase in solo sex activities such as masturbation and using sex toys.

Adult stores have also reported a jump in sales during the lockdown.

Read more:
The safest sex you’ll never have: how coronavirus is changing online dating

While early reports suggest a possible decline in STIs during the lockdown period, with the resumption of normal life across most of Australia, it’s unclear if this trend will continue.

The shopfront of an adult shop.
Adult shops report a sales jump during lockdown.
Flickr/OZinOH, CC BY-NC

2. Respiratory infections

Each year the flu kills 2,000-3,000 Australians. The measures people are taking to limit COVID-19, such as increased physical distancing, good hand hygiene and face masks, are already having a clear benefit on limiting flu spread.

Read more:
The coronavirus lockdown might help limit this year’s flu season – but you should still get your flu jab anyway

Deaths from flu in the first half of 2020 were down to just 36, compared with 430 in the same period last year.

While we might expect similar reductions in other respiratory infections, the World Health Organization has major concerns about tuberculosis (TB). Well over a million people worldwide die each year from TB, and extensive detection and tracing programs are key to reducing deaths.

These TB control programs have already been impacted by the pandemic and the WHO predicts an extra 1.4 million people could die as a result over the next five years.

3. Insect-borne diseases

Staying home should stop you inhaling someone else’s cough or sneeze, but it probably won’t stop you being bitten by a mosquito.

More than 700,000 people die each year from diseases spread by biting insects, such as malaria, dengue, sleeping sickness and yellow fever.

Read more:
Can mosquitoes spread coronavirus?

There are already signs dengue cases are growing in Southeast Asia in the wake of reduced control measures brought by COVID-19.

Monash University’s Scott O’Neill, director of the World Mosquito Program and dengue expert, predicts we’re facing a perfect storm in which fragile health systems manage outbreaks of two diseases at once.

In the case of malaria, the WHO estimates deaths in many parts of the world could double this year, killing hundreds of thousands more people if insecticide-treated net campaigns are interrupted because of COVID-19.

A mosquito
Disease-carrying bugs are still biting.

4. Non-communicable diseases

In wealthy countries such as Australia, non-communicable diseases such as cancer, heart disease and stroke are some of the main causes of death and disability. Death from some of these can be reduced by appropriate screening and primary healthcare interventions.

Read more:
Even in a pandemic, continue with routine health care and don’t ignore a medical emergency

If people delay going to their doctor to monitor blood pressure or put off routine cancer testing (and reports so far suggest this is happening), we will inevitably see more illness and deaths from these causes.

Cancer Australia has launched a campaign, Cancer Won’t Wait, to remind people to continue to participate in national screening campaigns for breast, cervical and bowel cancers and not to put off seeking medical attention for danger signs of cancer.

In countries that have relatively good control of COVID-19, increases in these non-communicable diseases are likely to far exceed the deaths directly caused by COVID-19.

5. Alcohol and substance abuse

If social media posts are anything to go by, people could be drinking more frequently and in higher volume than normal during the pandemic.

According to a poll commissioned by the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education, one in five Australian households are buying more alcohol than normal during the pandemic.

Alcohol contributed to more than 1,000 deaths in Australia in 2017 alone, and heavier drinking during the pandemic would exacerbate this pattern.

Read more:
Worried about your drinking during lockdown? These 8 signs might indicate a problem

Experts also worry about possible longer-term behavioural changes in drinking at home.

The health impacts of abuse of other substances such as heroin or cocaine during the pandemic remains contentious. Limits on transport and movement are already impacting both the trafficking and use of illicit drugs, but users might replace scarce drugs with other equally hazardous substances.

6. Mental health

Mental health disorders have some of the heaviest global health burdens of any type of illness. The social, economic and health impacts of COVID-19 will have huge consequences for mental health for many around the world.

Mental health support services have already reported a surge in calls, while hospitals have seen an increase in presentations of young people after self harm. Australia has launched a National Mental Health and Wellbeing Pandemic Response Plan backed by an initial A$48.1 million.

The Victorian government announced an additional A$60 million for mental health services but much more will likely be needed to avert a crisis in this area.

Read more:
As ‘lockdown fatigue’ sets in, the toll on mental health will require an urgent response

What’s the verdict?

Although some infectious diseases that are normally spread directly from person to person are already reducing their transmission because of our response to COVID-19, many other diseases will get much worse during and after the pandemic.

Although we can’t ease up our efforts to control the spread of COVID-19, taking our eye off other ongoing illnesses will mean even worse health and economic outcomes. It’s crucial to maintain our focus on prevention, control and elimination for the many other health challenges that impact Australia, and the world.The Conversation

Stuart Ralph, Associate Professor and malaria researcher, University of Melbourne and Jacqueline Coombe, Research Officer, Melbourne School Of Population And Global Health, University of Melbourne

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Homosexual activist speaks at ‘Christian’ festival in UK

Leading homosexual activist Peter Tatchell appeared at the Greenbelt festival on 28 August to speak about “the struggle for queer freedom in Africa,” reports Christian Concern for our Nation.

Greenbelt, a controversial ‘Christian’ festival, drew over 21,000 visitors this year. The festival is sponsored by Christian Aid, CMS, the Church Times, the Church Urban Fund and the Mothers Union.

Prior to the weekend, Mr. Tatchell had told Ekklesia that he was “looking forward” to the weekend and that, while not a Christian himself, “we have more in common than divides us”. In his talk he spoke about homosexual rights and the church, and accused the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, of “colluding” with the persecution of homosexuals in Africa.

Anglican Mainstream encouraged people to boycott Greenbelt because of Mr. Tatchell’s presence on the programme. Spokesman Lisa Nolland said that “Greenbelt, ‘the UK’s largest Christian festival’, is sending out a sub-text that is totally at odds with a Christian understanding of sexuality by including Peter Tatchell on its programme.”

“Young people who attend Greenbelt and hear Peter Tatchell are given false assurance that Peter Tatchell is the sort of person they should be listening to. Greenbelt has enough respect for Peter Tatchell as a public figure to place him on the platform …….thus, there is a de facto legitimisation of the plausibility of his views across the board.”

Mr. Tatchell is well known for his view that the age of consent should be lowered to 14 for homosexuals. On his website he states that if children under 14 have consensual sex, and if there is no greater than a three year age differential, there should not be a prosecution.

Mr. Tatchell is also a strong advocate of pornography which he believes is good for people. In his book “Safer Sexy: The Guide to Gay Sex Safely” he writes approvingly of sadomasochism, bondage, infidelity, orgies and public cruising for sex.

On 12 April 1998 Mr. Tatchell was prosecuted for leading an OutRage! protest which disrupted the Easter sermon by the then Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, with Mr. Tatchell forcing his way onto the pulpit to denounce what he claimed was George Carey’s opposition to legal equality for homosexuals.

Andrea Minichiello Williams of Christian Concern for our Nation said: "We wholeheartedly support the statements of Lisa Nolland and the brave stand that Anglican Mainstream has taken. We are living in a time when the church at large has been deeply compromised by a failure to stand for the truth of the gospel and has allowed itself to be strongly influenced by current fashionable political trends."

Report from the Christian Telegraph

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There are effectively two religions being practised in the Church of England, a leader of the evangelical or traditionally Protestant wing of the Anglican Church said this week, reports Hilary White, On one side are the theologically ultra-liberal leadership who support not only women’s ordination but homosexuality, while on the other are those who hold to traditionally Christian and biblical principles.

The Rev. Rod Thomas was speaking to the annual conference of the Reform movement in London this week. Thomas said that at least twenty-five parishes, representing up to 3000 practising Anglicans in the UK, are already seeking alternate oversight from bishops not associated with the ultra-liberal theological trends that dominate the Church of England.

“We are actively going to take forward the agenda of alternative episcopal oversight. We are no longer able to sit back and wait to see what happens,” Rev. Thomas said.

“The most radical scenario which I don’t discount, but neither am I saying we are pressing for, is where you have a shortlist of names and ask overseas persons to consecrate them so they cater for individuals in this country.”

The Reform movement was founded in 1993 to oppose the ordination of women as clergy in the Church of England and represents the established Church’s traditional protestant or “evangelical” wing.

Thomas urged support from Reform Anglicans for the Fellowship of the Confessing Anglicans, a body set up by the bishops who attended this summer’s Global Anglican Futures Conference in Jerusalem.

Thomas said that the group believes in remaining within an “an Episcopal church for good theological and pragmatic reasons.”

“However, where the teaching and actions of a bishop promote an unbiblical way of thinking, then we simply have to look elsewhere for a bishop.

“If we fail to do this then our congregations will not see us taking New Testament teaching seriously and the process of accommodation will continue,” he said.

This summer’s Lambeth Conference issued instructions for Anglican congregations not to continue to seek “cross-border” oversight from bishops outside traditional Anglican episcopal boundaries.

Meanwhile traditionally Christian congregations in the US are winning their cases in courts to retain their parish properties while at the same time removing themselves from oversight by the Episcopal Church of the US (ECUSA). In the Diocese of Virginia this week, a judge ruled that a parcel of land given by Christ the Redeemer Episcopal Church was properly deeded to Truro Church, a traditional church, and that the diocese has no claim to it. The diocese has recently lost three times in lawsuits to retain some dozen church properties.

Conservative Anglican writer and commentator David Virtue wrote, “The Anglican Communion is coming apart at the seams while Dr. Rowan Williams tells a London reporter that he admires the atheist [Dr. Richard] Dawkins.” Dr. Williams, the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, was reported to have recently said about Dawkins, “There’s something about his swashbuckling side which is endearing. I invited atheism’s high priest and his wife to a Lambeth Palace party last year. They were absolutely delightful.”

Report from the Christian Telegraph