Background: The pharynx is a common site of gonorrhoea among men who have sex with men (MSM) and may serve as a reservoir for infection, with saliva implicated in transmission possibly through oral sex, kissing, and rimming. Reducing sexual activities involving saliva may reduce pharyngeal gonorrhoea. This study aimed to explore MSM's views and knowledge of pharyngeal gonorrhoea and their willingness to change saliva transmitting sexual practices. MSM were also asked their views on using alcohol-containing mouthwash to potentially reduce transmission.
Methods: Using a qualitative descriptive approach, 30 MSM who were part of a larger study (GONE) conducted at the Melbourne Sexual Health Centre agreed to take part in semi-structured interviews between 14th May and 8th September 2015. The 10 interviews conducted face to face and 20 by telephone, lasted between 20-45 minutes. Data were analysed using qualitative content analysis.
Results: Most men considered pharyngeal gonorrhoea to be a non-serious sexually transmitted infection and attributed transmission primarily to oral sex. Almost all men reported they would not stop kissing, oral sex, or consider using condoms for oral sex to reduce their risk of pharyngeal gonorrhoea. Kissing and oral sex were commonly practised and considered enjoyable low risk sexual activities. Men were more likely to consider stopping sexual activities they did not enjoy or practice often, in particular insertive rimming. If proven effective, the majority of men reported they would use alcohol-containing mouthwash to reduce or prevent their risk of pharyngeal gonorrhoea.
Conclusion: Findings from this study suggest MSM are unlikely to stop saliva transmitting sexual practices they enjoy and consider low risk. Men would, however, consider using alcohol-containing mouthwash if found to be effective, highlighting the importance of exploring innovative strategies to reduce pharyngeal gonorrhoea.