Background: Syphilis infection among men who have sex with men (MSM) has been characterized by high rates of HIV coinfection (range: 20%–70%). In Arizona in 2008, MSM accounted for 80% of all Maricopa County male primary and secondary syphilis cases. Examination of self and sexual partners for syphilis lesions can lead to earlier diagnosis, treatment, and partner referral among HIV-infected MSM.
Objectives: To increase self and partner examination of oral, penile, and rectal areas for syphilis lesions though an educational intervention during HIV clinic visits.
Methods: During February 2, 2008–January 31, 2009, at each visit, all male patients from two HIV clinics in Phoenix received a handout that contained educational statements and photos of syphilis lesions. At the end of the visit, these patients completed a self-administered questionnaire to assess their frequency of self and partner examination for syphilis lesions during the previous 3 months.
Results: 1,817 questionnaires were received, of which 1,633 completed questionnaires were from male patients (76% MSM) at one or more visits to the HIV clinics. Data were analyzed by using SPSS®. Between baseline and intervention completion, the number of patients who reported never checking their mouth decreased from 46.3% to 17.2% (P = <.001); their penis from 30.5% to 7.3% (P = <.001); and their rectal area from 49.3% to 18.4% (P = <.001). Similarly, the number of patients who reported never checking their partner’s mouth decreased from 62.4% to 26.6% (P = <.001); their partner’s penis 47.2% to 13.3% (P = <.001); and their partner’s rectal area from 52.2% to 17.8% (P = <.001).
Conclusions: After reviewing syphilis educational photos, more HIV-infected men at two HIV clinics reported examining themselves or their partners for syphilis lesions.
Implications for Programs, Policy, and/or Research: Patient education regarding syphilis should include recommendations for self and partner examination to identify syphilis lesions and help prevent spread of the disease.
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