1 in 8 gay, bisexual men have chlamydia or gonorrhea

A new federal study shows that nearly one in eight men who have sex with men have chlamydia or gonorrhea, infection rates that mirror what Atlanta-based healthcare providers are seeing in their clients.

Some 13.3 percent of gay and bisexual men tested positive for chlamydia or gonorrhea across five U.S. cities, according to a new CDC report released on Friday. Men were tested in Houston, Miami, New York City, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. April is STD Awareness Month.

The numbers are similar to those seen at AID Atlanta and AbsoluteCare, two agencies that provide medical, HIV and sexually transmitted disease care to large numbers of gay and bi men.

At AID Atlanta, one in six clients tested positive for chlamydia or gonorrhea last year, according to DeWayne Ford, prevention services director for the agency.

“The [CDC] report is like a mirror image of our individual agency,” Ford (photo) told Project Q Atlanta.

Some 17 percent of AID Atlanta clients tested positive for chlamydia or gonorrhea in 2016, according to Ford. That dropped to 13 percent in 2017 then climbed back to 17 percent in 2018.

“Some of those numbers are definitely not just for MSM [men who have sex with men], but overall that was the infection rate,” he said. “Eighty percent of those who come in to screen for us are MSM.”

The CDC tested 2,075 gay and bi men in the new study. About one-third had not been screened for STIs in the past year. Some 7.3 percent of study participants tested positive for rectal chlamydia and 1.4 percent tested positive for oral chlamydia. Some 4.5 percent tested positive for rectal gonorrhea and 4.6 percent tested positive for oral gonorrhea. 

The CDC recommended that sexually active gay and bi men be screened annually for chlamydia and gonorrhea, but that some might benefit from more frequent screening.

Mark Hebert, an infectious disease nurse practitioner at AbsoluteCare, said the medical practice often tests its sexually active gay and bi clients for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) quarterly.

“Our positivity rate for extragenital STIs, which includes gonorrhea and or chlamydia of the throat and or rectum, closely aligns with the [CDC] study,” he said.

Hebert recommended that gay and bi men have a “frank discussion” with their healthcare providers about their sexual activity.

“Many providers are not as familiar with how STIs disproportionately affect the MSM community,” he said.

“If you don’t feel comfortable discussing this with your provider, find a clinic that specializes in STIs,” he added.