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London gonorrhoea rates fall, and HIV rates falling in Australia as more join PrEP demo
Gus Cairns, 2017-07-24 09:00:00

Gonorrhoea diagnoses among gay men attending the largest STI clinic in the UK at 56 Dean Street in London’s Soho have declined by 24% in the last year, the clinic’s Professor Sheena McCormack, principal investigator of the PROUD PrEP study, told the 9th IAS Conference on HIV Science (IAS 2017) in Paris today.

The fall in gonorrhoea diagnoses, from about 1600 in the third quarter of 2015 to about 1000 per quarter a year later, accompanied an already-reported 42% decline in HIV infections during the same period which was observed in other central London clinics and to a lesser extent in the rest of England.

Although McCormack said the reason for the fall in gonorrhoea cases was as yet unclear, a greater frequency of testing for HIV and STIs among clinic users could be the cause. Because gonorrhoea is often asymptomatic, regular screening will catch more infections and interrupt chains of infection.

Interestingly the same fall has not been seen in chlamydia cases. McCormack commented that this could be due to the fact that chlamydia has a longer incubation period than gonorrhoea, during which it could be missed by tests.

Documented increases in testing, and especially in the frequency of testing, by gay men in the UK may be partly a consequence of testing by gay men using PrEP, or simply because of greater awareness of the benefits of early treatment. McCormack added that the number of people, largely gay men, using PrEP in the UK may be larger than previously thought. A survey conducted through the gay contact website Grindr found a total of 3938 UK gay men who declared that they were HIV-negative and using PrEP, and it is thought that due to continued stigma against PrEP use, even this figure could be underestimated by 20%.