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Sex Transm Infect. Feb 2001; 77(1): 15–20.
PMCID: PMC1758308

Inequalities in rates of gonorrhoea and chlamydia between black ethnic groups in south east London: cross sectional study

Abstract

Objectives:To examine differences in population based rates of gonorrhoea and chlamydia between black ethnic groups in Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham Health Authority.

Methods: Episodes of gonorrhoea or chlamydia recorded among attenders at 11 genitourinary clinics in south and central London from 1 January 1994 to 31 December 1995 were retrieved. Complete data on chlamydia were only available for women. Ethnic group was assigned according to census categories—white, black Caribbean, black African, black other, Asian, or other. We calculated yearly incidence rates for episodes of gonorrhoea and chlamydia in residents of Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham Health Authority. Random effects Poisson regression models were used to examine associations between infection rates and age, ethnic group, and material deprivation.

Results: During the study period there were 1996 episodes of gonorrhoea in men and women and 1376 episodes of chlamydia in women with complete data. For both infections rates among individuals from black Caribbean and black other ethnic groups were markedly higher than among black Africans. In men, the gonorrhoea rate among black Caribbean 20–24 year olds was 2348 (95% CI 1965 to 2831) episodes per 100 000 compared with 931 (95% CI 690 to 1288) in black African men and 111 (95% CI 100 to 124) per 100 000 in white men of the same age. Among women gonorrhoea rates were highest in black Caribbean 15–19 year olds (2612, 95% CI 2161 to 3190 per 100 000). In contrast, rates in black African women of the same age (331, 95% CI 154 to 846 per 100 000) were similar to those of white women (222, 95% CI 163 to 312). Chlamydia rates were also highest in black Caribbean 15–19 year old women (4579, 95% CI 3966 to 5314 per 100 000), compared with 1286 (95% CI 907 to 1888) in black African and 433 (95% CI 349 to 544) per 100 000 white women. Controlling for material deprivation and age only attenuated differences in rates between ethnic groups slightly.

Conclusions: There are marked differences in rates of gonorrhoea and chlamydia between different black ethnic groups, with higher rates in black Caribbeans than black Africans. This study supports the hypothesis that assortative sexual mixing patterns can restrict epidemics of sexually transmitted infections within ethnic groups. Differences in disease occurrence between black ethnic groups should be explored before combining data, even when numbers of episodes are small.

Key Words: gonorrhoea; chlamydia infections; ethnic groups

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