CONTINUED high rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among gay and other men who have sex with men (MSM) in NSW, including those who are HIV positive, have prompted a revision of the STI and HIV testing guidelines for NSW.

The 2014 Sexually Transmitted Infection and HIV Testing Guidelines for Asymptomatic Men who have Sex with Men, which was released this month by the Sexually Transmissible Infections in Gay Men Action Group (STIGMA), continues to recommend annual testing for gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis and HIV and more frequent testing for high-risk men.

Last published in 2010, the revised guidelines now also recommends throat testing for chlamydia, and the use of electronic reminders for gay men and their clinicians to increase the regularity of testing, particularly for gay men in inner-Sydney and other Australian metropolitan centres.

Developed to assist GPs and primary health practitioners with comprehensive and regular testing of gay men, the revised guidelines also recommend conducting a behavioural risk assessment and promoting consistent condom use among gay men.

Karen Price, Chair of STIGMA and Director HIV and Sexual Health at ACON, said HIV and STI testing remained an essential component of improving health, wellbeing and efforts to end HIV transmission.

“We must acknowledge the great commitment many gay men have demonstrated in looking after their sexual health, but there is still more to do,” she said.

“The continuing high rates of STIs in the inner-Sydney area remain concerning, especially the significant increases in gonorrhoea observed over the last five years.”

A large proportion of STIs are being detected in gay men without any symptoms, which STIGMA says reinforces the need for regular testing. Infectious syphilis and STIs in the throat and rectum are particularly likely to be non-detectable with symptoms.

The revised guidelines align with the Ending HIV campaign supported by the NSW Ministry of Health and ACON, which aims to increase HIV testing among gay men.

Sydney Sexual Health Centre senior specialist Conjoint Associate Professor Chris Bourne said it was timely to have the updated guidelines released to support the campaign, and that the revised guidelines will go a long way in helping to combat increased rates of STIs and HIV amongst gay men.

“Gay men are recommended to get tested for other STIs at the same time as they are being tested for HIV, because many throat and rectal STIs, for example, do not have symptoms,” he said.

The revised guidelines can be downloaded at http://stipu.nsw.gov.au/stigma/sti-testing-guidelines-for-msm/

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