Exploring the attitudes of men who have sex with men on anal self-examination for early detection of primary anorectal syphilis: a qualitative study
AuthorAung, ET; Fairley, CK; Ong, JJ; Bilardi, JE; Chen, MY; Chow, EPF; Phillips, TR
Source TitleBMC Infectious Diseases
AffiliationMelbourne School of Population and Global Health
Document TypeJournal Article
CitationsAung, E. T., Fairley, C. K., Ong, J. J., Bilardi, J. E., Chen, M. Y., Chow, E. P. F. & Phillips, T. R. (2021). Exploring the attitudes of men who have sex with men on anal self-examination for early detection of primary anorectal syphilis: a qualitative study. BMC INFECTIOUS DISEASES, 21 (1), https://doi.org/10.1186/s12879-021-06686-4.
Access StatusOpen Access
BACKGROUND: Studies show men who have sex with men (MSM) practising receptive anal sex are more likely to present with secondary syphilis, suggesting anorectal primary lesions are being missed. Regular anal self-examination might be able to detect anorectal syphilis lesions, hence potentially reducing transmission. This study aimed to explore the attitudes of MSM on performing anal self-examination to detect primary syphilis. METHODS: In this qualitative study, 20 MSM over 18 years of age were purposively sampled from a sexual health clinic to participate in semi-structured interviews. Interviews were recorded, transcribed verbatim and data analysed thematically. RESULTS: Four major themes and 12 sub-themes were generated from the study: (1) reasons for performing anal self-examination, (2) preferred educational resources for anal self-examination, (3) attitudes towards partner anal examination, and (4) acceptability of anal self-examination. Most participants had performed some form of anal self-examination in the past, and, just over half performed regularly for mostly health-related concerns. Most participants who infrequently or never performed anal self-examination were agreeable to perform regularly if it was recommended by health professionals with appropriate guidance. Participants preferred education on anal self-examination from health professionals and trusted online learning resources. CONCLUSION: Our study showed MSM were agreeable to anal self-examination however would like to receive education and training to gain more confidence in conducting anal self-examination as a screening tool. Further studies are required to explore the adherence and acceptability of anal self-examination for syphilis prior to studies examining efficacy. The study provides foundation for any future policy aiming at utilising anal self-examination as a screening tool for syphilis among MSM.
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