Background: Since 1996, there has been a resurgence in sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among men who have sex with men (MSM) in Western Europe. This has coincided with a significant decrease in HIV-associated mortality following the introduction of highly active antiretroviral therapies (HAART) and a corresponding increase in the number of MSM living with HIV. Levels of unprotected anal intercourse have also increased. In this article, we use STI surveillance data from a number of Western European countries to better understand the contribution of HIV-positive MSM to the recent increase in STIs.
Methods: Published literature, surveillance reports, and ad hoc publications relating to HIV prevalence trends and STIs among HIV-positive MSM in Western Europe were reviewed.
Results: Post-HAART, HIV prevalence among community samples of MSM ranged from 5% to 18%. HIV prevalence among MSM diagnosed with an STI was substantially higher. On average, HIV prevalence among MSM diagnosed with syphilis in 11 countries was 42% (range 14%–59%). Most HIV-positive MSM with syphilis were aware of their HIV status. In England and Wales, 32% of MSM with gonorrhea were HIV-positive in 2004. Outbreaks of lymphogranuloma venereum have been documented in 9 countries; HIV-positive MSM accounted for 75% of cases on average (range 0%–92%). Cases of sexually transmitted hepatitis C have been predominantly identified among HIV-positive MSM in Rotterdam, Paris, Amsterdam, and the United Kingdom.
Conclusions: In Western Europe, STIs have been disproportionately diagnosed among HIV-positive MSM post-HAART. Improved survival coupled with serosorting among HIV-positive MSM appears to explain the high prevalence of HIV among MSM with STIs. STI transmission among HIV-positive men will have contributed substantially to increasing STI trends seen among MSM in Western Europe, since 1996. These findings highlight the need for routine STI testing among HIV-positive MSM as well as safer sex messages highlighting the implications of STI coinfection.