Gay Men's Perceptions of Sexually Transmissible Infections and Their Experiences of Diagnosis: "Part of the Way of Life" to Feeling "Dirty and Ashamed"

The authors introduced the current study by noting that while gay men are more likely than their heterosexual peers to be diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection, little research has focused on gay men's perceptions of STIs other than HIV. Using information from interviews conducted with gay men in Sydney, the team analyzed participants' perceptions of STIs and their experiences of testing and diagnosis.

More than half the men reported having ever been diagnosed with an STI. The infections "were generally regarded as inconvenient consequences of sexual activity." Compared to curable bacterial STIs, recurring viral STIs were perceived as more serious. All STIs were thought of as "considerably less important than HIV." To manage STI risk, the most commonly employed strategies were condom use and regular testing.

"Despite the relative lack of concern attributed to STIs, being diagnosed with an STI could generate feelings of shame, embarrassment, and annoyance," the team wrote. Among some respondents, educational campaigns to destigmatize STIs and promote regular testing appeared to have been effective.

"We believe that to maintain high rates of STI testing among gay men, community education efforts should continue to reduce the stigma associated with STIs, and greater support should be offered to gay men when they receive an STI diagnosis," the authors concluded.