Objective - To examine surveillance data for evidence of changing sexual behaviour and continuing transmission of HIV-1 among men who have sex with men. Design - Analytic study of surveillance data on sexually transmitted diseases. Setting - England and Wales. Main and outcome measures - Number of cases of rectal gonorrhoea and newly diagnosed HIV infection in homosexual men. Results - New cases of gonorrhoea among men attending genitourinary medicine clinics increased by 7.7% in 1989 and by 4.2% in 1990. Reports of rectal isolates of Neisseria gonorrhoeae also rose and the male to female ratio for patients with rectal gonorrhoea changed from 0.3:1 during 1988-9 to 2.6:1 in 1990-1. Although the overall number of cases of acute hepatitis B fell during 1988-91, 81 and 82 homosexual men were infected in 1990 and 1991 respectively compared with 50 and 42 in 1988 and 1989. 1526 men had HIV-1 infection diagnosed in 1991, the largest number since 1987. Twenty eight of the 97 (29%) men who seroconverted between January 1989 and December 1991 were aged less than 25. The proportion of men aged 15-19 who were found to be infected with HIV-1 at their first test increased from an average of 2.4% up to 1990 to 4.7% in the first nine months of 1991. The prevalence of HIV infection in men under 25 attending genitourinary medicine clinics in London was 17% compared with 7.8% outside London. Conclusion - Unsafe sexual behaviour and HIV transmissions have increased among homosexual men after a period of decline. Recent HIV transmissions may disproportionately affect younger men.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We are grateful to Mr D R Millar, consultant obstetrician; Mrs Bullas and the staff of the medical records department at the Jessop Hospital for Women who preserved the records and allowed us to use them; and to the staff at NHS central registry and OPCS who traced the men. The study was supported by a grant from the Wellcome Trust.