STIs in gay men continue to rise

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Sexually-transmitted infections in gay and bisexual men remain at a high level, the UK Health Protection Agency says.

New figures from the body show that men who have sex with men and young adults are the most at-risk groups for infections.

The HPA said that in cases where sexual orientation was recorded, 64 per cent of new syphilis infections and 40 per cent of new gonorrhoea infections were found in gay or bisexual men.

Gonorrhoea diagnoses in gay and bisexual men increased by a third in the past year (3,379 to 4,503 diagnoses), chlamydia by 22 per cent from 4,084 in 2009 to 4,975 and genital herpes by 19 per cent from 818 in 2009 to 973.

Last year, a total of 329 new cases of HIV were diagnosed, with 134 of these found in gay or bisexual men.

Dr Gwenda Hughes, head of the HPA’s STI section, said: “The message of consistent condom use is even more important for men who have sex with men because they are at particular risk of HIV as well as other STIs. This underlines the importance of regular sexual health screening for this group. The HPA currently recommends that men who have sex with men should be tested for HIV at least annually.”

Terrence Higgins Trust’s chief executive Sir Nick Partridge said: “These figures reflect what we know globally, that STIs are still on the increase amongst gay men which is something we urgently need to combat. We are seeing far too many cases of gonorrhoea, chlamydia, genital herpes and LGV in gay men of all ages.

“THT is working hard to warn gay men about STIs. We regularly remind people about the need to wear condoms and get regular sexual health checks, but everybody has a part to play in bringing these figures down. STIs are not only dangerous in themselves; they also make you more susceptible to getting or passing on HIV. We need more community debate to make people aware of STIs and help gay men to better value their own sexual health.”