Pune witnesses rise in sexually transmitted diseases among LGBT community

A rise in the Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) in Pune city among the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) community has puzzled the city doctors. The increasing use of online apps by the community in order to facilitate casual sexual relationships has increased the risk of STI’s

Pune witnesses rise in sexually transmitted diseases among LGBT community

Doctors and activists say that with continuous awareness campaigns on safe sex; STIs such as gonorrhoea, genital warts and syphilis had come under control in the last one decade. But since the last one year incidences of these STIs have increased in the city.

Take the case of Rajiv (name changed) a transgender who approached the city doctor. Doctor’s examination revealed that he is suffering from gonorrhoea – one of the STIs. Doctor’s investigation pointed out that he had met and interacted with the partner through online apps.

Dr Vinay Kulkarni, dermatologist from the city who had seen Rajiv, said, “The total number of cases on STIs in LGBT community that I have seen in the last two years are equal to the total number of cases that I have seen in the last ten years. When the partner is anonymous, we cannot even ask the patient to get the partner for investigation. This is how the chances of getting STIs increase.”

Previously, gonorrhoea was reported rarely in months but now, most doctors see at least one such case each month, say experts.  LGBT rights activists from the city, Bindu Madhav Khire, said, “I am seeing two to three cases of STIs getting reported every month since the last six months. One case of syphilis was reported last week. We did not see any syphilis patient in the last two and half years. Previously, we used to get gonorrhoea case once in three months, now we are getting that every month since last one year.”

Experts say that many rights that are denied to LGBT and stigma associated with LGBT community could also be one of the reason which affects community’s health seeking behaviour.

Dr Raman Gangakhedkar, Director In charge of National AIDS Research Institute, said, “There are many reasons that can be seen for the lack of health or treatment seeking behaviour in the community. The reasons can be like – recent Supreme Court judgment or the complacency in the system with the decline in the HIV prevalence or the stigma associated with it.”

“Today you have easy access to sex with online app, but at the same time treatment seeking behaviour has not seen any improvement in the community,” he emphasized.

Given that online apps make contacting people easily.  While mentioning about the reasons for the rise in STI cases, Khire, said, “Getting partner is not difficult these days as there are more and more online apps available which makes casual sex easy. Also, when the HIV cases have seen a decline the emphasis on use of condoms has also declined. Many of the institutions in the city who promote use of condoms have not received funds since the last six months.”