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The past quarter century has seen an exponential growth in both the quantity and quality of research on sexually transmitted infections (STI) among men who have sex with men (MSM). This development has been in response to the substantial public health need for this research as distinct epidemics of STIs have emerged and become highly prevalent within MSM communities over the past 25 years. In addition, the challenges posed by the global AIDS epidemic have contributed in no small degree to the urgency with which researchers seek to find innovative ways to control STI epidemics among MSM. It has now become abundantly clear that if researchers can demonstrate the effectiveness of new approaches to the prevention, control and treatment of STI epidemics, important contributions will be made not only to the health of MSM communities but also the larger communities in which MSM reside.
The challenge of finding effective responses to STI epidemics among MSM is made more difficult by the adverse social and cultural settings in which MSM communities are often located.1 These hostile social settings, as well as the sexual risk and sexual partner turnover patterns found within many MSM communities,2 mean that standard approaches to STI control may need to be tailored if they are to be effective. Because the constellation of factors that drive STI epidemics among MSM is often unique, culturally competent approaches to public health practice, research design, theory and even clinical management must be developed and tested for effectiveness within these populations. Thus, both the substantial public health need for this research focus and the complexity of this research agenda suggests that the continuing evolution of a sub-specialty in STI research among MSM will serve the public’s health well. This special issue has been designed to further this goal and this …
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