Incidence of STIs and HIV among German visitors to test sites

Germany has stepped up the spread of HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to the paucity of clinical and epidemiological research on the topic, a 2022 Annual Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) study sought to report data on people undergoing anonymous testing for sexually transmitted infections. (IST) in Germany.

The study, presented today at CROI by lead author Cristoph Boesecke, MD, recorded the results of large-scale STI testing in Cologne, Germany. From January 2017 to December 2020, Boesecke and his team collected anonymous data on STI screening, clinical, demographic and gender information. People who came to the checkpoint were screened for HIV, hepatitis C, syphilis, chlamydia and gonorrhea with point-of-care testing kits.

Investigators documented a total of 15,153 Checkpoint visitors, aged 16 to 85. The main reasons given for requesting an STI test were the HIV risk situation (40%), the routine test (23%) and entering into a new relationship (21%). Most visitors were men who have sex with men (40%), followed by men who have sex with women (28%) and women who have sex with men (22%).

The annual number of visitors increased by 3% in 2018 and 6% in 2019, but fell by 40% in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. The frequency of MSM visitors has steadily dropped from 46% in 2017 to 35% in 2020, while the number of visitors has increased for all other groups; women who have sex with women visited the testing site 94% more often.

The annual number of visitors tested specifically for HIV decreased from 55% in 2017 to 42% in 2020. The number of chlamydia and gonorrhea tests increased from 17% in 2017 to 29% in 2020, and HIV testing HCV increased from 4% to 9%, while syphilis testing remained constant at 19%.

MSM had the highest overall frequency of STIs, but MSM and WSM had a continued increase in chlamydia infections. The number of MSM visitors taking PrEP increased by 46% in 2018 and 52% in 2019 (+7% in 2020, likely affected by the COVID-19 lockdown).

Investigators detected STIs in 5% of all clinic visitors, showing how vital community testing sites are despite COVID-19 lockdown restrictions. Deployment of PrEP for HIV has increased dramatically, but MSM continue to be at greatest risk of HIV infection.

Study, PrEP Deployment, and COVID-19 Impact Community Testing for HIV and Other STIs,” was presented virtually at the 2022 Annual Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) .

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