Background and objectives: Despite trends toward safer sex practices in homosexually active men, some such people remain at high risk for acquiring sexually transmitted diseases (STD). This study was designed to assess behavioral and demographic determinants of STD acquisition in men who have sex with men (MSM), to guide prevention interventions.
Study design: A cross-sectional medical record review was undertaken of MSM who attended an urban STD clinic from January, 1993 through December, 1994. Gonorrhea, chlamydial infection, Chlamydia-negative nongonococcal urethritis (NGU), and newly documented human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection were analyzed in relation to demographic and behavioral variables.
Results: Among 1,253 MSM, 196 (15.6%) had nonchlamydial NGU, 105 (8.4%) had gonorrhea, 31 (2.5%) had chlamydial infection, and 162 (12.9%) had known or newly documented HIV infection. Known HIV infection was an independent predictor of urethral gonorrhea (odds ratio [OR] 2.3, 95% confidence interval [CI95] 1.2-4.8). Oral insertive intercourse was independently associated with urethral gonorrhea (OR 4.4, CI95 1.4-13.4) and nonchlamydial NGU (OR 2.2, CI95 1.3-3.7), and receptive anal intercourse was associated with newly documented HIV infection (OR 2.6, CI95 1.3-4.9). Neither number of sex partners nor condom use was associated with any incident STD outcome, including new HIV infection.
Conclusions: MSM who attend STD clinics represent a subgroup of homosexually active men who remain at high risk for STDs, including HIV infection. Fellatio, commonly thought to be a "safe" sexual practice, is an independent risk factor for urethral gonorrhea and nonchlamydial NGU. A history of consistent condom use or of few sex partners should not dissuade clinicians from performing screening tests for HIV and other STDs. Repeated STD screening and counseling about safer sex are indicated for many HIV-infected MSM.