Sexual Health Update
Oral-anal ‘rim’ gay sex sparks gut infection outbreak
Health experts are warning gay and bisexual men in the UK are at risk of Shigella, a bacterial infection that can make you feel like you're 'dying'
Oral-anal sex, known as ‘rimming’, has sparked a gut infection outbreak in the UK.
Health experts are warning gay and bisexual men are at high risk of contracting Shigella, a bacterial infection that can lead to ongoing frequent diarrhoea, stomach cramps, vomiting and fevers.
Normally, Shigella is only contracted when travelling to foreign countries. But in gay and bisexual men, it is being spread through oral contact with feces or via unwashed hands.
In 2009, there were only 43 cases among men in the UK that did not have a link to travel. Just four years later, reports have surged to 224 cases with more cases expected.
‘Shigella is on the rise, so it is vital gay and bisexual men know about it and how to avoid getting it,’ Dr Gwenda Hughes said, head of STI surveillance at Public Health England.
Posters and leaflets informing men about the infection are being distributed to nightclubs, saunas and bars and other gay venues, as well as sexual health clinics.
Gay and bisexual men are being urged to avoid oral-faecal contact and to wash their hands thoroughly and shower after sex.
One gay man, who acquired the infection after rimming, said getting Shigella was the ‘lowest point’ in his life.
‘I suffered uncontrollable bloody diarrhoea with severe stomach cramps. The severity of the symptoms and dehydration headaches made me think I was going to die,’ he said.
If you suffer from symptoms that you feel might be Shigella, go to a GP or clinic, mention Shigella, and request a stool sample test.
The infection is treatable with antibiotics.
Cary James, head of health improvement at Terrence Higgins Trust, suggested not all cases of the infection were being reported.
‘Men with symptoms who haven’t heard of Shigella before might assume it’s a particularly bad case of food poisoning,’ he said. ‘However, the infection can be dangerous, even more so if you’re already living with HIV or hep C.’
Health charity: Extending HPV vaccine
for boys and gay men can prevent cancer
Campaigners say offering HPV vaccinations to adolescent boys and gay and bisexual men could help stop cancer.
A vaccination programme against the human papillomavirus (HPV) began in 2008 in the UK, but only among girls, on the grounds that this would curb the spread of the infection to boys as well.
Heterosexual men gain protection from the virus through herd immunity if women are vaccinated, but no such protection is afforded to gay men.
HPV is known to spread through genital or oral contact.
It can cause cervical, penile, anal and throat cancers, as well as genital and anal warts.
HPV Action said the virus is responsible for 5% of all cancers worldwide.
“We have an incredible opportunity here to fight cancer with a simple jab,” said the charity’s spokesman Peter Baker.
“Most ways of fighting cancer involve losing weight or exercising more or changing lifestyles radically. This involves a simple vaccination which costs £45.”
It is estimated that vaccinating 367,000 boys aged 12 each year would cost £24m.
Mr Baker added: “We should be investing more in this programme because further down the health chain it costs a colossal amount of money to treat cancer.”
In response to HPV Action, a Department of Health spokesman said: “More than 80% of girls are now vaccinated against HPV, however we recognise that the current vaccination programme does not offer protection against HPV-related cancers to gay men, which is why the JCVI has set up a sub-committee to assess whether the programme should be extended to adolescent boys, men who have sex with men, or both.”
National AIDS Trust: Making sex education optional hampers the fight against HIV
Tom Perry, policy and campaigns officer at the National AIDS Trust says Tuesday’s vote in the House of Lords against compulsory sex education represents a missed opportunity in the fight against HIV.
The National AIDS Trust is pleased to see that the Department for Education will be creating an expert panel on Personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education and collecting case studies demonstrating good practice.
We will be working closely with them to ensure teaching about HIV – the facts, how to protect yourself and others and the realities of living with the virus are given focus and that good quality guidelines for teachers are created.
However good these initiatives are, as long as teaching sex education remains optional and current guidance is based on decade-old information, we fail to address the root of the problem.
The current hands-off and inconsistent approach to non-statutory PSHE is not working.
A recent survey by the Sex Education Forum found that one in four young people learn nothing about HIV at school.
Research has also shown that sex education which is relevant and inclusive for LGBT young people is woefully inadequate.
The latest figures show in 2012 there were more new HIV diagnoses among gay and bisexual men in a single year than ever before, while new diagnoses among young gay and bisexual men have doubled in the past ten years.
The House of Lords decision and the government’s failure to support the amendments shows a lack of commitment to and investment in the sexual health of England’s young people.
We desperately need leadership from the government on this issue; ensuring sex education is accurate, up-to-date and meets the needs of all young people across all our schools, including LGBT youngsters.
NAT will continue to campaign on this issue.
Tom Perry is the policy and campaigns officer at the National AIDS Trust