Bacterial Sexually Transmitted Infection Screening Rates by Symptomatic Status Among Men Who Have Sex With Men in the United States: A Hierarchical Bayesian Analysis

Sex Transm Dis. 2019 Jan;46(1):25-30. doi: 10.1097/OLQ.0000000000000896.


Background: Prevention of bacterial sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among men who have sex with men (MSM) requires timely disease detection, but this is complicated by asymptomatic infection. We estimated screening/testing rates by symptomatic status to evaluate adherence to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention STI screening guidelines.

Methods: In a cross-sectional study of 2572 US MSM aged 15 to 65 years in 2017 to 2018, we measured the reported number of asymptomatic STI screens in the past 2 years versus tests prompted by disease symptoms. Using negative binominal regression within a hierarchical Bayesian framework, we estimated yearly rates of asymptomatic screening and symptomatic testing by geographic, demographic, and behavioral factors.

Results: Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) status was most strongly associated with all testing/screening frequency (incidence rate ratio [IRR], 1.72; 95% credible interval [Crl], 1.49, 1.97). The HIV-uninfected MSM had 0.14 (95% credible interval [CrI], 0.12-0.17) symptomatic tests and 0.88 (95% CrI, 0.77-1.01) asymptomatic screens per year. The HIV-infected MSM had 0.25 (95% CrI, 0.18-0.35) symptomatic tests and 1.53 (95% CrI, 1.24-1.88) asymptomatic screens per year. Rates of asymptomatic screening were higher among black compared with white MSM (IRR, 1.41; 95% CrI, 1.15-1.73), but weakly associated with number of past-year sexual partners (IRR, 1.01; 95% CrI, 1.00-1.01). Overall, 85% to 90% of diagnostic events were asymptomatic screens.

Conclusions: Self-reported rates of STI screening were close to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's recommended overall annual screening frequency, but with gaps defined by demographics and behavioral risk. Targeted screening efforts may be indicated specifically for younger MSM and those with multiple partners.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Asymptomatic Infections / epidemiology*
  • Bayes Theorem
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • HIV Infections / diagnosis
  • Homosexuality, Male*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Screening*
  • Middle Aged
  • Sexual Behavior
  • Sexual and Gender Minorities
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases, Bacterial / diagnosis*
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases, Bacterial / epidemiology*
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult