Cases of the STI lymphogranuloma venereum soar among gay and bisexual men in England

Gay couple in bed together

Cases of the STI lymphogranuloma venereum (LGV) have been soaring among gay and bisexual men in England, suggesting queer men are taking more sexual risks.

LGV is a sexually transmitted infection that comes from a specific strain of the chlamydia bacteria. It most often contracted via unprotected anal, vaginal or oral sex.

According to the NHS, symptoms can include “swollen lymph glands in the groin on one or both sides or an ulcer or sore on the penis, vagina or around the anus”.

Those with LGV may also experience anal symptoms from the STI, including “blood or pus from the anus on underwear or after using toilet paper, pain in the anal area when pooing or having receptive anal sex, constipation or loose poos when trying to open the bowels, or a feeling of incomplete emptying after opening the bowels”.

A recent report published by Public Health England showed that LGV diagnoses were at a record high in 2019, and almost all of those cases (98 percent) were gay and bisexual men. There has been a steady increase in cases since 2017.

Although the STI has historically been associated with queer men who are HIV-positive, according to HIV/ AIDS charity NAM,  the number of HIV-negative men or those who do not know their status who have been diagnosed with LGV has increased five-fold since 2013.

The report authors attribute this increase to a mixing of sexual networks as progress has been made in preventing HIV transmission. 

They wrote: “The increase…may reflect greater mixing between sexual networks as HIV interventions improve…this may indicate that increased access to HIV prevention is altering sexual risk behaviour.

“Findings of this report cement the need for continued use of targeted control interventions including increased health promotion and testing in populations with higher rates of LGV, as well as the opportunity to review national guidelines.”