Online discussions of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) during COVID-19: Insights from the social media platform Reddit.

Publication date: Dec 01, 2023

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, reported rates of chlamydia and gonorrhea dropped and remained low for several months of 2020 as compared to 2019. Additional data are needed to reveal causes of reported rate changes. Here, we analyze STI-related conversations from the online-discussion platform Reddit to gain insight into the role of the pandemic on public experience of STIs in 2020. We collected data from Pushshift’s and Reddit’s application programming interfaces via programs coded in Python. We focused data collection on the ‘r/STD’ subreddit. Collected submissions contained the term(s) “covid” and/or “coronavirus” and were submitted between 01/01/2020 and 12/31/2020. We collected the title and text of each submission. We used a Latent Dirichlet Allocation (LDA) algorithm to create a topic model of post content and complemented this approach with key term analysis and qualitative hand-coding. Of the 288 posts collected, 148 were complete and included in analyses. LDA revealed four main topics in the collected posts: narration of sexual experiences, STI testing, crowdsourcing of visual STI diagnoses, and descriptions of STI-related pains and treatments. Hand-coding of COVID-19 mentions revealed pandemic-related anxieties about STI care seeking and experienced delays in and changes to quality of STI care received. References to COVID-19 and associated mitigation efforts were woven into Reddit posts pertaining to several domains of STI care. These data support the notion that Reddit discussions may represent a valuable source of STI information, standing to corroborate and further contextualize STI survey and surveillance work.

Concepts Keywords
Coronavirus Care
Pandemic Coding
Python Collected
Reddit Covid


Type Source Name
disease MESH sexually transmitted infections
disease MESH COVID-19
disease VO Chlamydia
disease MESH gonorrhea
disease MESH causes
disease IDO algorithm
disease IDO quality

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