Background and objectives: In response to increases in sexually transmissible infections (STI) and HIV infection rates among men who have sex with men (MSM), the current study aimed to investigate the feasibility of a screening program at male-only saunas in Melbourne, Australia.
Goal: The goal was to determine (1) the participation rate, and the proportion whom obtain test results; (2) the prevalence of gonorrhea and chlamydia; and (3) to evaluate risk factors for STI acquisition.
Study design: We used a cross-sectional design. Pharyngeal, rectal, and urethral specimens were collected from participants, and tested for Chlamydia trachomatis and Neisseria gonorrhoeae by polymerase chain reaction (PCR).
Results: There was a participation rate of 24% (n=521), and 70% obtained their test results. The infection rate in those who failed to collect their results was no different than those seeking theirs. The proportion of participants with PCR-detected gonorrhea and/or chlamydia infection was high, 10.7%. The presence of infection was associated with seeking sexual health care in the last year.
Conclusion: The high prevalence rate of gonorrhea and chlamydia supports the concept of a screening program in Melbourne male-only saunas. The low participation rate has highlighted the need to consider alternative methods for making contact with men in the saunas or offering incentives to participate in future screening programs. Although anonymous participation encouraged participation for some men, future programs should attempt to obtain contact details for follow up of positive test results.