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Sex Health. 2017 Aug;14(4):304-312. doi: 10.1071/SH16149.

Active syphilis and its association with HIV and sexual risk behaviours in a multicity sample of men who have sex with men and transgender women in Peru.

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Yale School of Public Health, Department of Epidemiology of Microbial Diseases, 60 College Street, New Haven, CT 06520, USA.
Yale School of Medicine, Section of Infectious Diseases, AIDS Program, 135 College Street, Suite 323, New Haven, CT 06510, USA.
Asociación Civil Impacta Salud y Educación, Av Almte Miguel Grau 1010, Barranco 15063, Peru.
Dirección General de Epidemiología, Ministerio de Salud, Av. Salaverry 801, Jesús María 15072, Peru.


Background Syphilis in Peru is heavily concentrated in men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender women (TGW). The aim of the present study was to understand the risk factors for active syphilis infection among MSM and TGW in Peru.


Independent correlates suggestive of active syphilis infection were examined to better understand risk factors for syphilis in MSM and TGW, with separate analyses conducted based on location and among TGW. In 2011, 5101 MSM and TGW completed both self-report surveys and HIV and syphilis testing in five Peruvian cities.


Overall, 261 (5.1%) MSM and TGW met the criteria for active syphilis, with higher prevalence in Lima than elsewhere (7.0% vs 3.0%) and in TGW than in MSM (10.7% vs 4.2%). Significant independent correlates of active syphilis infection differed greatly by location. In Lima, they included being HIV-infected (aware or unaware of status), being a TGW, being a high school graduate, engaging in receptive anal intercourse, no recent sex with a female partner and having had any symptomatic sexually transmissible infection, including syphilis, in the previous 6 months. Outside Lima, the independent correlates included being HIV-infected and unaware of status, engaging in recent sex work, no recent sex with a female partner and age 35-44 years. Among TGW, independent correlates of active syphilis included being HIV-infected (aware or unaware of status), a recent syphilis diagnosis in the previous 6 months and recent drug use.


The findings of the present study support the need not only for combined HIV and syphilis screening, but also for increased screening and treatment of syphilis in MSM and TGW populations. Stratified analyses suggest different syphilis epidemics throughout the country and in TGW, yet being HIV-infected and aware were consistently associated with active syphilis, suggesting higher syphilis risk in HIV-infected MSM and TGW.


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