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Gonorrhea and syphilis skyrocketing among gay men in Britain

Claire Chretien Claire Chretien Follow Claire

July 5, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) — The number of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among men who have sex with men increased 10 percent from 2014 to 2015, Public Health England (PHE) reported Tuesday.

In 2015, “there were large increases in diagnoses of gonorrhea (11 percent) and syphilis (20 percent), continuing the rising trends in these infections of the past five years,” PHE reported, and “these rises have occurred mostly in gay, bisexual, or other men who have sex with men.”

Among men who have sex with men, in 2015 there was a 21 percent increase in gonorrhea diagnoses, a 19 percent increase in syphilis diagnoses, and an eight percent increase in Chlamydia diagnoses. 

PHE’s report noted that the number of males diagnosed with gonorrhea, syphilis, and genital herpes has “increased considerably.”

Men who have sex with men bear the brunt of STIs, according to the report.

In English sexual health clinics in 2015, 84 percent of syphilis diagnoses, 70 percent of gonorrhea diagnoses, 21 percent of Chlamydia diagnoses, 12 percent of genital herpes diagnoses, and 9 percent of genital warts diagnoses were in men who have sex with men.

PHE’s report indicated that there seems to be high levels of risky sexual behavior among men who have sex with men. PHE’s data “suggests that rapid STI transmission is occurring in dense sexual networks of HIV-positive” men who have sex with men. 

“Of particular concern is the continuing and rapid rise in syphilis and gonorrhea among MSM [men who have sex with men], which strongly suggests high levels of condom-less sex,” the report noted. “HIV serosorting, the practice of engaging in condom-less sex with partners believed to be of the same HIV status, increases the risk of infection with STIs, hepatitis B and C, and sexually transmissible enteric infections like Shigella, and likely plays a role in the reported STI trends. For those who are HIV negative, serosorting increases the risk of HIV seroconversion as 14 percent of MSM are unaware of their infection.”

The U.K.’s National Health Service notes that condoms are not 100 percent effective and the risk of spreading STIs through anal sex is higher than many other types of sexual activity.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control warns, "Condom use cannot provide absolute protection against any STD. The most reliable ways to avoid transmission of STDs are to abstain from sexual activity, or to be in a long-term, mutually monogamous relationship with an uninfected partner.”

The report also noted that the population of men who have sex with men contains some who identify as heterosexual, indicating “diversity” and “the need for culturally appropriate and sensitive targeting of health promotion messages, including at cruising sites and sex on premises venues.”

PHE has hired HIV Prevention England to address “stigma and discrimination” among men who have sex with men and other at-risk populations and promote “HIV testing, condom use, awareness of STIs, and other evidence-based HIV prevention interventions.” 

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