Accuracy of Presumptive Gonorrhea Treatment for Gay, Bisexual, and Other Men Who Have Sex with Men: Results from a Large Sexual Health Clinic in Los Angeles, California

LGBT Health. 2018 Feb/Mar;5(2):139-144. doi: 10.1089/lgbt.2017.0115.


Purpose: This study analyzed the accuracy of presumptive gonorrhea treatment in a sexual health clinic serving primarily gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM). Treating suspected gonorrhea before laboratory confirmation can reduce symptoms and transmission; however, this strategy can overtreat uninfected individuals, which may promote antimicrobial resistance. We identified differences in accuracy of gonorrhea presumptive treatment by site of infection and presence of signs or symptoms.

Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional study of gay, bisexual, and other MSM who were treated presumptively for gonorrhea at the Los Angeles LGBT Center between February and July 2015. We calculated positivity of treated patients, proportion of infections treated, and positive predictive value (PPV) of treating gonorrhea presumptively based on signs, symptoms, or exposure at the urethral, rectal, or pharyngeal site.

Results: Of 9141 testing visits, presumptive treatment was provided at 1677 (18%). Overall, gonococcal infections were identified at 31% (n = 527) of visits where presumptive treatment was provided, compared to 9% (n = 657) of visits without presumptive treatment (P < 0.01). Forty-five percent of gonococcal infections were treated presumptively, and treatment was provided at 14% of gonorrhea-negative visits. Seventy-eight percent of urethral, 54% of rectal, and 35% of pharyngeal infections were treated presumptively. PPV was highest for genitourinary signs.

Conclusion: Approximately one-third of gay, bisexual, or other MSM treated presumptively for gonorrhea at a sexual health clinic tested positive for gonorrhea. These findings highlight the potential contribution of point-of-care tests in reducing overtreatment resulting from presumptive treatment.

Keywords: bisexual; clinical research; epidemiology; gay; men who have sex with men; sexually transmitted infections.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Ambulatory Care Facilities / statistics & numerical data*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Gonorrhea / diagnosis*
  • Gonorrhea / therapy*
  • Homosexuality, Male / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Los Angeles
  • Male
  • Neisseria gonorrhoeae / isolation & purification
  • Sexual Health