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Screening for syphilis among men who have sex with men in various clinical settings
  1. J Debattista1,
  2. J Dwyer1,
  3. R Anderson1,
  4. D Rowling1,
  5. J Patten1,
  6. M Mortlock2
  1. 1Brisbane Sexual Health and AIDS Service, The Prince Charles Hospital Health Service District, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
  2. 2School of Mathematics, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
  1. Correspondence to:
 Joseph Debattista
 Sexual Health and AIDS Service, 270 Roma Street, Brisbane, Queensland 4000, Australia;


Objectives: To assess the prevalence of syphilis infections among men who have sex with men (MSM) accessing the Brisbane Sexual Health Clinic during the period 1997 up to May 2003, data were collated through three clinical programmes conducted by the service—a large inner city mainstream sexual health clinic and two small outreach sessional clinics conducted on the site of male sex on premises venues (SOPV). Data analysis also provided the opportunity to evaluate the effectiveness of the smaller outreach clinics to access populations of MSM less likely to attend or identify at the larger mainstream clinic, and therefore enhance the detection of previously undiagnosed sexually transmissible infections.

Methods: Computerised records from 1997–2003 were collated for a statistical analysis of syphilis and other STI pathology results for all MSM accessing the mainstream clinic, and two outreach clinics.

Results: A review of client charts showed that 16 new syphilis diagnoses were made over the previous 5 years, but only two of these infections (both through the mainstream clinic) were early syphilis and therefore transmissible. All other cases were latent infections. A higher proportion of bisexual men was identified with positive syphilis serology but this was just below significance (p = 0.06). Significantly, almost a third of syphilis diagnoses (all latent) were made at SOPV outreach clinics, despite the much lower proportion of clients seen overall through the SOPV clinics. For other sexually transmissible infections, the mainstream clinic demonstrated greater efficiency at case detection.

Conclusion: Outreach clinics located in male saunas may serve an effective function in syphilis screening by facilitating access for a particular subpopulation of MSM (bisexual, married men). These outreach clinics may provide important outlets for education and opportunistic screening of asymptomatic MSM and foster a greater willingness for men to honestly self identify. However, larger, mainstream clinics serve a more anonymous venue for the testing of symptomatic men.

  • MSM, men who have sex with men
  • SOPV, sex on premises venues
  • syphilis
  • MSM

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