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.