GONORRHOEA cases among gay men who live in inner-city Sydney have increased significantly and are now at a four-year high, according to recent NSW public health surveillance data.

The data, which was provided to the Sexually Transmissible Infections in Gay Men Action (STIGMA) group, relates to gay, bisexual and men who have sex with men (MSM) who have attended sexual health clinics in inner city Sydney.

It stated that there were 1204 gonorrhoea notifications among this particular group of men in 2010, while in 2013, there were 2268 notifications.

The data for 2014 isn’t finalised yet, but an ACON spokesperson has stated that it they already suggest a further — albeit smaller — increase.

Karen Price, the chair of STIGMA and ACON’s HIV and sexual health director, has expressed concern at the “continuing high rates” of STIs among gay and MSM residents in inner-Sydney, “especially the significant increases in gonorrhoea” compared to the last few years.

“While we acknowledge the great commitment many gay men demonstrate in looking after their sexual health, it’s essential for gay men to get tested regularly,” she said.

“Gonorrhoea is a bacterial infection passed from penis to mouth or anus that can be easily treated. Condoms provide the most effective protection against gonorrhoea during anal sex. It’s also important for gay men to understand that the presence of STIs like gonorrhoea can increase the risk of HIV transmission.

“Regular HIV and STI testing remains an essential component of improving health, wellbeing and efforts to end HIV transmission among gay men. Every sexually active gay man should be tested for HIV and STIs at least twice a year and more frequently if needed.”

Price added that with new rapid HIV testing clinics opening up – including a new a[TEST] facility at 167 Oxford St in Darlinghurst – testing is now quicker and easier than before, and free.

“We would encourage all gay men, regardless of whether they have any symptoms, to get a complete sexual health screen,” she said.

GONORRHOEA: THE FACTS

  • Gonorrhoea is a bacterial infection that lives in the penis, arse or throat. Since 2011, there has been a significant increase in gonorrhoea infections in gay communities across NSW.
  • In men, gonorrhoea is mainly transmitted through oral or anal sex. Touching an infected area and then touching your own penis or anus can also transmit gonorrhoea.
  • Many people who have gonorrhoea aren’t aware they have it, particularly if they have it in the throat or anus. If you are going to get symptoms, most commonly in your penis, you may have a clear or yellow milky discharge and a stinging pain when urinating.
  • Gonorrhoea can be detected by a urine test plus swabs from the anus and throat and is easily treated with antibiotics. If you have been infected with gonorrhoea, it’s really important to avoid any sex that might spread the infection until you have been given the all- clear from your doctor.
  • More information on gonorrhoea and other STIs is available at the Drama Down Under website.

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