Association between where men who have sex with men (MSM) meet sexual partners and chlamydia/gonorrhea infection before and during the COVID-19 pandemic in San Diego, CA
- King, Colin Michael Baile
- Advisor(s): Garfein, Richard S;
- Skaathun, Britt
Meeting sex partners online is associated with increased risk of acquiring sexually transmitted infections (STIs). We examined whether different venues where men who have sex with men (MSM) meet sex partners was associated with prevalent chlamydia and gonorrhea infection, and if prevalence increased during (vs. before) the COVID-19 pandemic.We conducted a cross-sectional analysis of data from the San Diego “Good To Go” (GTG) sexual health clinic from two enrollment periods: (1) 03/2019-09/2019 (pre-COVID-19), and (2) 03/2021-09/2021 (during COVID-19). Participants completed self-administered intake assessments. This analysis included males ≥18 years old self-reporting sex with other males within 3 months before enrollment. Participants were categorized as (1) meeting new sex partners in-person only (e.g. bars, clubs, etc.), (2) meeting new sex partners online (e.g. applications, websites, etc.), or (3) having sex only with existing partners. We used multivariable logistic regression, adjusting for year, age, race, ethnicity, number of sex partners, PrEP use, and drug use to examine whether venue or enrollment period were associated with chlamydia and gonorrhea infection (either vs. no STI). Among 2,546 participants, mean age was 35.5 (range: 18-79); 27.9% were non-white; 37.0% were Hispanic. Overall STI prevalence was 14.8% and was higher (17.8%) during COVID-19 versus pre-COVID-19 (13.3). Participants met sex partners online (56.9%), in-person (16.9%), or only had existing partners (26.2%) in the past 3 months. Compared to having only existing sex partners, meeting partners online was associated with higher STI prevalence (adjusted Odds Ratio [aOR]: 2.32; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.51-3.65), while meeting partners in-person was not associated with STI prevalence (aOR: 1.59; CI: 0.87-2.89). Enrollment during COVID-19 was associated with higher STI prevalence compared to pre-COVID-19 (aOR: 1.42; CI: 1.13-1.79). Meeting sex partners online was associated with increased chlamydia/gonorrhea prevalence among MSM. Prevalence appeared to increase during the COVID-19 pandemic.