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Association between knowledge, risk behaviours, and testing for sexually transmitted infections among men who have sex with men: findings from a large online survey in the United Kingdom

Publication date: 

2019-05-24 00:00:00

Ref: 

doi: 10.1111/hiv.12753

Author(s): 

S Wayal, D Reid, P Weatherburn, P Blomquist, s Fabiane, G Hughes, CH Mercer.

Publication type: 

Article

Abstract: 

Objectives In the UK, men who have sex with men (MSM) bear a disproportionate sexually transmitted infection (STI) burden. We investigated MSM's STI knowledge; whether their STI testing behaviour met national guidelines (annually if sexually active; 3‐monthly if engaging in STI risk behaviours); and the relationship between STI testing in the last 3 months, STI knowledge and STI risk behaviours by HIV status. Methods Sexually active (in the last year) men aged > 15 years who were UK residents and were recruited from gay‐orientated online dating platforms completed an anonymous online survey about STI knowledge, STI risk behaviours, and STI testing (March–May 2017). This included 11 true statements about STIs. Respondents scored 1 for each statement they ‘knew’, with those scoring < 6 overall treated as having ‘poor’ STI knowledge. Descriptive and multivariable analyses were conducted, separately by HIV status, to test our hypothesis and calculate adjusted odds ratios (AORs) with 95% confidence intervals (CIs). Results Compared to HIV‐positive men (n = 489), the proportion of HIV‐negative/unknown‐status men (n = 3157) with ‘poor’ STI knowledge was significantly higher (46.4% versus 22.9% for HIV‐positive men) and the proportion with STI testing in the last 12 months was lower (71.6% versus 87.2%, respectively). In the last 3 months, 56.9% of HIV‐negative/unknown‐status and 74.1% of HIV‐positive men reported STI risk behaviours, of whom 45.8% and 55.1%, respectively, had been tested for STIs during this time. Among HIV‐negative/unknown‐status men, those reporting STI risk behaviours were more likely (AOR 1.52; 95% CI 1.26–1.84) and those with poor STI knowledge less likely (AOR 0.73; 95% CI 0.61–0.89) to have been tested during the last 3 months. However, neither factor was independently associated with 3‐monthly testing among HIV‐positive men. Conclusions Improving STI knowledge, especially among HIV‐negative/unknown‐status men, and promoting frequent STI testing among men engaging in STI risk behaviours are vital to address the poor sexual health of MSM.