Since the launch of the pilot service, hundreds of men have been contacted and given the opportunity to get tested and treated, and the service continues to expand, with new clinics and gay dating services coming on board. BBRT has recently joined Gaydar, Fitlads, Recon and Manhunt as one of the dating sites supporting the service.
Matthew Hodson, Head of Programmes at GMFA, said, “No one wants to hear that they may have an STI, but it’s far better to know so that you can get tested and treated. The service that we provide is confidential and people can use it anonymously if they choose. The service is only available to men who have been diagnosed at one of the participating GU clinics, to ensure that the messages sent are genuine. Looking at the way that men have used the service shows that many men prefer to use our system, especially if they’ve had lots of sexual partners.”
The most frequently notified infection has been gonorrhoea. Drug resistant gonorrhoea is becoming a serious issue for gay men in the UK and around the world, so rapid diagnosis and treatment is more crucial now than ever. “Gonorrhoea, as well as other STIs, can increase the likelihood of HIV being transmitted,” added Hodson. “HIV positive men with gonorrhoea are more infectious and HIV negative men with gonorrhoea are more vulnerable to HIV infection. Getting gonorrhoea diagnosed and treated promptly will also help to reduce new HIV infections.”
The Sexual Health Messaging Service is funded by a grant from the Elton John AIDS Foundation. If you are diagnosed at a participating clinic you will be given a unique code, which you can use to access the website. From there you can enter any contact information that you have for your recent partners: mobile phone numbers, email or a profile name from a participating dating website. They will then be automatically sent a message, alerting them to the fact that they should get themselves checked out. The messages can be anonymous if you prefer, although if you put your name to it the recipient is more likely to take action.
For more information on the Sexual Health Messaging Service, including details about how to opt in on Gaydar, Recon and Fitlads, visit www.gmfa.org.uk/shms. For more information on STIs visit www.gmfa.org.uk/stis.