Frequency and determinants of consistent STI/HIV testing among men who have sex with men testing at STI outpatient clinics in the Netherlands: a longitudinal study

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Abstract

Objectives

Men who have sex with men (MSM) are at highest risk for STIs and HIV infections in the Netherlands. However, official guidelines on STI testing among MSM are lacking. They are advised to test for STIs at least every six months, but their testing behaviour is not well known. This study aimed to get insight into the proportion and determinants of consistent 6-monthly STI testing among MSM testing at STI outpatient clinics in the Netherlands.

Methods

This study included longitudinal surveillance data of STI consultations among MSM from all 26 STI outpatient clinics in the Netherlands between 1 June 2014 and 31 December 2015. Multinomial logistic regression analysis was used to identify determinants of consistent 6-monthly testing compared with single testing and inconsistent testing. Determinants of time between consultations among men with multiple consultations were analysed using a Cox Prentice-Williams-Peterson gap-time model.

Results

A total of 34 605 STI consultations of 18 634 MSM were included. 8966 (48.1%) men had more than one consultation, and 3516 (18.9%) men tested consistently 6-monthly. Indicators of high sexual risk behaviour, including having a history of STI, being HIV positive and having more than 10 sex partners, were positively associated with both being a consistent tester and returning to the STI clinic sooner. Men who were notified by a partner or who reported STI symptoms were also more likely to return to the STI clinic sooner, but were less likely to be consistent testers, identifying a group of event-driven testers.

Conclusions

The proportion of consistent 6-monthly testers among MSM visiting Dutch STI outpatient clinics was low. Testing behaviour was associated with sexual risk behaviour, but exact motives to test consistently remain unclear. Evidence-based testing guidelines are needed to achieve optimal reductions in STI transmission in the future.

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