The sexual health of some gay and bisexual men in the capital is “worsening” despite increasing awareness of support services, Public Health England (PHE) has warned.
In a new report the agency said men who have sex with men (MSM) make up an estimated 3.8% of the London male population – but they constituted nearly one in five (24%) of all London residents diagnosed with new sexually transmitted infections in 2013.
Representing 65% of all gonorrhoea cases identified and 84% of all syphilis cases, PHE said London’s MSM community are disproportionately affected when it comes to sexual health and also experience much higher re-infection rates than heterosexuals, particularly of gonorrhoea.
PHE warned in the last decade other infections transmitted sexually have emerged as of particular concern in MSM.
These include Shigella flexneri (bacteria that can cause diarrhoea) and lymphogranuloma venereum, (LGV). There is also evidence that MSM in London are more likely to use common chemsex drugs, such as crystal methamphetamine, GHB/GBL and mephedrone than elsewhere in England.
Dr Yvonne Doyle, regional director for PHE London said: “The worsening of sexual health of men who have sex with men is despite evidence that they are increasingly aware of and accessing services.
“High numbers of MSM are taking risks with their health by not using condoms consistently and as a result we are seeing rises in a whole range of STIs, including HIV.”
Dr Doyle continued: “Efforts should continue to encourage regular and frequent testing among MSM to help the on-going transmission of STIs. MSM should have an HIV/STI screen at least annually or every three months if having unprotected sex with new or casual partners.
“Most importantly, however, they should use condoms consistently with all casual and new partners and main partners until they have been screened. This advice is regardless of their own HIV status and that of their partners.”