Increasing rates of sexually transmitted diseases in homosexual men in Western Europe and the United States: Why?

Kevin Fenton*, John Imrie

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

    165 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    The recent increases in acute STDs among MSM must be viewed in the context of a post-AIDS era that is characterized by demographic shifts, changing sexual attitudes, and rapidly changing social contexts. A key driver seems to be the growing prevalent pool of HIV-positive MSM for whom the crucial motivator for safer sex (primary HIV prevention) no longer exists and where, given the prevalence of seroconcordant sexual mixing, considerable uncertainty and conflicting advice regarding the rationale and benefits for continued safer-sex practice are unclear [105,106]. Although it is tempting to ascribe these changes to increases in risk behavior, it is essential that the contexts in which the changes are occurring are also considered. It may also be appropriate to contemplate whether further changes to the social environment (eg, structural interventions) are a suitable adjunct to our traditional prevention activities that operate largely in isolation from each other. It seems natural to advocate that interventions that adopt holistic approaches to the sexual health of MSM and that address upstream factors such as mental health, drug use, discrimination, and internalized homophobia should be included in the efforts to create more healthy environments for MSM. However, there is still some way to go in identifying which of these upstream interventions are effective, how they may be implemented within or alongside existing health care systems, and what impact, if any, they are likely to have on STD transmission. Such interventions are also likely to be long on implementation time, require consider political will, and be extremely hard to evaluate, and the benefits may not be seen within the same generation in which they are implemented. Therefore, there must be confidence that this is the appropriate route of travel. The consistency of findings from across industrialized countries confirms an increasing connectivity within the global MSM community; a community that is decreasingly defined by geographic boundaries and, in the era of the Internet and easier foreign travel, increasingly linked by shared interests and social and sexual networks. This is powerfully demonstrated in the near-simultaneous syphilis and LGV outbreaks among MSM in Europe and the United States [29]. In this regard, greater collaboration between researchers and providers working with MSM in different countries is now required. More specifically, consideration should be given to creating closer partnerships between sentinel cities, such as London, New York, San Francisco, Berlin, Paris, and Amsterdam, that have large MSM populations and are likely to be emerging, or rapid diffusion sites for new social and sexual trends that may impact on disease transmission. There are many benefits to such cross-national working, including earlier recognition and improved response to emerging threats, sharing innovative practice, avoiding duplication of effort, and creating a united front for dealing with what must be considered a cause for concern domestically and globally.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)311-331
    Number of pages21
    JournalInfectious Disease Clinics of North America
    Volume19
    Issue number2 SPEC. ISS.
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2005

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