STI infection rates among gay men reach 'crisis' levels

Health chiefs from around the UK will meet in London this week to devise new strategies to tackle the problem

A growing epidemic of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) linked to a rise in unprotected sex and club drug use represents “a crisis for gay men”, a leading expert has said.

Rates of gonorrhoea, chlamydia and syphilis in gay men have soared in recent years, official figures show, while new HIV infections have also reached record highs.

Health chiefs from around the UK will meet in London this week to share evidence and devise new strategies to tackle the problem, which has seen record highs in infection rates for several STIs.

Experts say that, paradoxically, the rise of successful drug treatments for HIV has contributed to increased infection rates for other STIs. More men are having unprotected sex in the assumption that they no longer need to wear a condom to protect themselves from the virus, once considered a death sentence before the advent of effective anti-retroviral drugs. Other men are lowering their risk by ‘sero-sorting’, or ensuring partners have the same HIV status as them, but then having unprotected sex, risking the transmission of other infections.

The problem has taken on a worrying new dimension in the past five years, with a minority of gay men, particularly in London and other major cities, taking up high risk sexual behaviour associated with the injection club drugs such as crystal meth.

Infection rates for HIV itself are also on the rise, with 3,250 new diagnoses in men who have sex with men the UK in 2012, an all-time high.

David Stuart, substance use lead at the 56 Dean Street sexual health clinic, said the situation had reached crisis levels.

“There’s been a flood of new drugs onto the market,” he said. “That has mixed with a lot of confusion about the changing HIV healthcare situation. Once upon a time the message was: “wear a condom and you’re safe”. Now if someone is taking their medicine it’s very hard to transmit the virus even if you don’t use a condom. Thirdly, there’s new technology – things like [gay networking site] Grindr and websites for hooking up online. There’s no training booklet for how to manage your sex life, your romantic life, using these apps.”

There were 36,000 STI diagnoses in men who have sex with men in England alone in 2012, including 8,500 new cases of chlamydia, 10,800 for gonorrhoea and 2,100 cases of syphilis. Although improved testing and screening explains some of the rise, health experts agree that high risk behaviours have become much more common.

Gwenda Hughes, head of STI surveillance, who will be meeting other experts on Friday at a meeting called by the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH), said that a new holistic approach was needed to address the crisis.

“We need a much broader strategy to look at the sexual health of men who have sex with men, looking at contextual factors behind their poor sexual health,” she said. “We want to understand why people are having risky sex. The idea is to look at broader issues around mental health, wellbeing, discrimination and broader health issues in this population.”

News
people And here is why...
News
people
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Associate Recrutiment Consultant

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Group have been well ...

    Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: Real Staffing Group is seeking Traine...

    Year 6 Teacher (interventions)

    £120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We have an exciting opportunity...

    PMLD Teacher

    Competitive: Randstad Education Manchester: SEN Teacher urgently required for ...

    Day In a Page

    Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

    The children orphaned by Ebola...

    ... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
    Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
    The magic of roundabouts

    Lords of the rings

    Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
    Why do we like making lists?

    Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

    Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
    Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

    A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

    As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
    Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

    Paris Fashion Week

    Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
    Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

    Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

    One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
    10 best children's nightwear

    10 best children's nightwear

    Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
    Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

    Manchester City vs Roma

    Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
    Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

    Trouble on the Tyne

    Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
    Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

    Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

    and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
    Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

    Last chance to see...

    The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
    So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

    Truth behind teens' grumpiness

    Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

    Hacked photos: the third wave

    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?