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From ”super strains” of HIV, to exotic and resistant forms of chlamydia, news of sexually related bugs, germs and microbes is certain to prick up the ears of gay men. But last week’s gonorrhea-related news from the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was old hat, as far as men who have sex with men (MSM) are concerned.
The headline in the April 13 issue of the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report was appropriately clinical: ”Fluoroquinolones No Longer Recommended for Treatment of Gonococcal Infections.” Translated, this means that the gay male community is simply living up to its trend-setting clichÃ©. And that across the country, more than 5 percent of reported cases of gonorrhea among straight people are now resistant to the standard antibiotic protocol. Under the new CDC guidelines, everybody should be treated for gonorrhea with cephalosporins, generally a single injection of ceftriaxone, rather than a single oral dose of the commonplace Cipro, for example. It’s what MSM — and heterosexuals in California and Hawaii — have already been doing for months, or years in some cases.
”We switched at least six months ago,” says Dr. Ben Stearn of the Dupont Circle Physicians Group, a practice that sees well over 1,000 patients — most of them gay men — a year. ”Anybody who is worth their salt as a doctor [treating MSM] here should’ve already changed. This was well known.”
Stearn adds that while some of his patients may have preferred running to their local pharmacy and picking up an oral dose of Cipro to treat gonorrhea, having to visit the office for an injection hasn’t appeared to deter patients from seeking treatment.
”We see many patients every week with gonorrhea and chlamydia,” he say, explaining that as with prior protocols, the ceftriaxone injection treats for both infections. ”You treat for both, because they often go hand in hand.”