Men who have sex with men account for 8 in 10 new syphilis infections across Scotland

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There has been a rapid rise in cases of syphilis among gay and bisexual men.

Rates of infections are now at their highest for more than six decades across Scotland, with 90% among men.

Experts are blaming the increased infection rates – which have doubled in recent years – on men who have sex with men having unprotected casual encounters.

Men who have sex with men account for 8 in 10 new syphilis infections across Scotland

New syphilis diagnoses rose 13% in 2016, with 356 infections – the highest number since 1952.

An incredible 83% of new infections were among men who said they have sex with men, while just 20 new cases were among women.

The latest increase in syphilis comes after the number diagnoses doubled between 2014 and 2015, from 159 to 316.

Of the 295 cases involving gay and bisexual men, 19 said they had had between 10 and 20 sexual partners in the three months prior to diagnosis and six reported more than 20.

However, the majority – 195 – said they had had fewer than five, and 27 had had between five and nine. The remainder did not provide an estimate.

This compared to four or fewer partners in each of the heterosexual cases.

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Health Protection Scotland say the trend “mirrors the epidemiological picture observed in London, and England as a whole”, with a rise in new sexually transmitted infections among gay and bi men.

Liz Porter, Director of Clinical Service at Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “This data in Scotland provides yet more evidence that we still have much to do to address the alarming inequalities in the sexual health of different populations.

“We know that men who have sex with men are disproportionately affected by STIs, and last year accounted for 83 per cent of all syphilis diagnoses in Scotland. This has risen sharply.”

The rise comes after Scotland became the first part of the UK to approve the use of HIV-preventing drugs PrEP.

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Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) drug Truvada can drastically reduce people’s chances of being infected with HIV, and is available in a number of countries to at-risk groups including sex workers, gay men, and people in serodiscordant relationships.

However some medical experts have suggested that although it cuts the number of new HIV infections, it has also contributed to an increase in other STI infections as men forego condoms during sex.