Gonococcal, chlamydia, and syphilis infection positivity among MSM attending a large primary care clinic, Boston, 2003 to 2004

Sex Transm Dis. 2009 Aug;36(8):507-11. doi: 10.1097/OLQ.0b013e3181a2ad98.


Background: In the past decade, increases in syphilis and rectal gonorrhea have been reported among men who have sex with men (MSM) in the United States; however, limited sexually transmitted disease (STD) positivity data are available on MSM who receive their healthcare from primary care or general medical clinics. The current study sought to elucidate STD positivity in asymptomatic MSM seen at the largest primary care clinic for MSM in New England and to describe STD test positivity by reason for STD testing.

Methods: As part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's MSM Prevalence Monitoring Project, all medical visits between 2003 and 2004 (n = 21,927) among MSM attending Fenway Community Health (Boston) were reviewed. The prevalence of positive STD tests (chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis reactivity) was determined and analyzed by demographic characteristics, HIV status, symptoms, and reason for testing.

Results: Overall, 23.4% of MSM visits included STD testing during the observation period. Their mean age was 39 years (range: 18-65 years); 84% were white, 5% were black, and 5% were Hispanic. Sixty-five percent of MSM tested were asymptomatic with 7% of asymptomatic MSM testing positive for at least one STD. STD prevalence varied by reason for STD testing: 4.4% of MSM routinely screened had at least one STD, compared to 6.9% of MSM who reported having high risk sex in the preceding 3 months, and 17% of MSM reporting an exposure to an STD. Among all asymptomatic MSM tested, 1.0% had urethral gonorrhea; 1.7% had pharyngeal gonorrhea; 5.6% had rectal gonorrhea; 2.2% had urethral chlamydia; and 4.3% were seroreactive for syphilis.

Conclusions: Rectal gonorrhea and syphilis seropositivity were frequently diagnosed in asymptomatic MSM; STD prevalence was highest in MSM tested due to an STD exposure or reporting high-risk sex, underscoring the need to promote routine screening in high risk MSM populations.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Ambulatory Care Facilities / statistics & numerical data*
  • Boston / epidemiology
  • Chlamydia Infections / diagnosis
  • Chlamydia Infections / epidemiology*
  • Gonorrhea / diagnosis
  • Gonorrhea / epidemiology*
  • Homosexuality, Male / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Primary Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases, Bacterial / diagnosis
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases, Bacterial / epidemiology*
  • Syphilis / diagnosis
  • Syphilis / epidemiology*
  • Young Adult