Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 29 July 2014

Sexually transmitted infections in men who have sex with men (MSM) continue to soar

Sexually transmitted infections in men who have sex with men (MSM) continue to soar
Sexually transmitted infections in men who have sex with men (MSM) continue to soar

STI rates among men who have sex with men continue to increase in Northern Ireland, despite education and information campaigns by the local health authorities.

The latest available statistics show that 222 men were diagnosed with gonorrhoea in 2012 – this accounted for 65 % of all males diagnosed with the infection, crucially this has risen from just 9% in 2000. Worryingly, Northern Ireland’s leading GUM clinician Dr Wallace Dinsmore says this is just the tip of the iceberg:

“Not only is gonorrhoea increasing among MSM, syphilis is also a significant problem and these statistics, which are from 2012, do not represent the true scale of the issue which my colleagues and I see in Northern Ireland’s GUM clinics on a daily basis”.

The rise in STIs among men who have sex with men was described as at ‘crisis levels’ ahead of a specially convened meeting of UK sexual health experts in London. During the Valentine’s Day conference, which was organised by the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV(BASSH), medics discussed the paradox that; increased infection rates of STIs could be because of the increasingly successful treatments available for HIV, as Dr Martin Crockard from Confidante explains:

“The progress in HIV drugs has been nothing short of dramatic, but unfortunately more men are having unprotected sex because they feel they don’t have to shield themselves from the virus – other STIs are then spread. Testing is the key to detection and ultimately to prevention and is especially important because STIs like gonorrhoea, syphilis and chlamydia are predominately asymptomatic.”

The ‘crisis’ goes hand-in-hand with the low uptake of sexual health testing by men who have sex with men. According to a recent survey by BASSH, more than a quarter of gay and bisexual men have never been tested. A spokesman for the association says that following last month’s meeting its experts are working on a recommendation paper in order to encourage more men to get tested:

“MSM who do not present for testing are significantly more likely to be unaware that they have an infection, and therefore represent a much greater risk of onward transmission – a clear public health concern.”

MSM seeking STI testing can now do so in the privacy of their own home, with the new Confidante STI Home Testing Kit – the available over the counter product to detect 10 of the most common STIs, from just one sample. Confidante is also available online at www.confidantetest.com #TakeTheTest

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