London’s gay community is facing a sexual health crisis as a result of “worsening” awareness of the dangers of unsafe sex. Whilst gay and bisexual men represent less than 4 percent of London’s population they are responsible for 84 percent of syphilis cases and 65 percent of gonorrhoea cases in the capital.
A new study from Public Health England (PHE), reported on by Pink News, suggested that around a quarter of all reported cases of sexually transmitted infections (STI) are diagnosed in gay men. The figures – which relate to 2013 – will make worrying reading for public health professionals, who had hoped to have quelled STI’s in the capital.
Diseases like gonorrhoea are not the only infections being reported in the gay community. The bacterial infection shigella flexneri – which causes diarrhoea – is common, as is lymphogranuloma venereum (LGV).
The report also warns of the dangers of “chemsex”, the practise of taking drugs during a sexual encounter. Participants in chemsex are often less careful when it comes to using condoms, as they are high during sex sessions.
The drugs used in chemsex encounters include: crystal methamphetamine, GHB/GBL and mephedrone. The use of these drugs are much higher in the gay community than elsewhere in British life. All of these drugs are considered highly dangerous by doctors.
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.”
She 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.”
It had been hoped that policies like same sex marriage would have encouraged the gay community to be less promiscuous. This report suggests that the impact of this policy has been very limited in sexual health terms.