Led by Dr Karen Lorimer, the Sexual Health team harness multi-faceted approaches, building on surveillance and epidemiological data, evidence about the effectiveness of interventions, and methods to translate evidence to policymakers.
Some examples of our most recent work include:
Sexual health research within the team has led to changes in HIV testing policy for vulnerable populations across the UK and the rest of Europe. The policy related to the frequency of HIV testing, increases in sites available for testing, and the scope of interventions to promote testing. These policies have resulted in major changes in HIV testing, a reduction in undiagnosed HIV infection and HIV related ill health in Scotland, the UK and the rest of Europe. This has enabled improved quality of life, better health and the economic contribution of people who are HIV positive to society.
In 2012 we published findings from our evaluation of the Make Your Position Clear (MYPC) campaign. Prof Paul Flowers and Dr Christina Knussen, working in collaboration with colleagues at the MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, Glasgow, evaluated whether MYPC increased regular HIV and sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing and promoted the use of condoms and water-based lubricants among gay and bisexual men in the West of Scotland.
Dr Karen Lorimer is leading an evaluation project for rapid HIV testing in community settings. This is a partnership between GCU, NHS Lanarkshire and Terrence Higgins Trust.
Graeme Donald (PhD student) is exploring mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) as a novel avenue of investigation in the management of psychological symptoms for people living with HIV (PLWH). This is the first study in the UK to evaluate MBSR in an HIV context.
Technologies and sexual health
Advancements in diagnostic technologies, which allows for testing out with traditional clinical walls, for online and community-based testing have occurred alongside the growth of mobile, Internet and other new digital and social media platforms. A generation is growing up with new channels for gathering and sharing information, connecting with friends and negotiating their way through life. Sexual health professionals have been exploring the advantages of technology to extend their reach and communication with people about critical health information.
Chlamydia trachomatis is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections among young people in the UK. Chlamydia often has no symptoms so people who have it do not always know. Different ways of offering Chlamydia testing are available, but novel non-medical approaches such as home collected postal testing kits have been show to be acceptable, particularly to young men. A qualitative project, led by Dr Karen Lorimer, funded by the Chief Scientist Office (£63,810) explored the feasibility of an Internet approach to systematic screening of young heterosexual men for Chlamydia. The research explored young men’s views of this type of testing and assessed the barriers to implementation. Findings will be used to develop a pilot randomised controlled trial of Internet-based sexual health promotion and testing service delivery.
Dr Jamie Frankis led quantitative and qualitative research, which was developed and conducted in collaboration with NHS Lanarkshire, the Scottish Netreach Network (Terrence Higgins Trust, Gay Men’s Health, Waverley Care) and the sexual health team at Glasgow Caledonian University and Monash University (Melbourne, Australia). The studies explored men’s online socio-sexual networking and sexual behaviours, their attitudes to HIV testing, condom use and unprotected anal intercourse, and the acceptability of pre- and post-exposure prophylaxis for men who have sex with men (MSM). It is important that we understand these digitally mediated sexual cultures in order to appropriately target interventions.
Older adults and sexual health
Adults aged 45-65 years are engaging in sexual behaviours within an environment in which the impact of the culture of the new ageing, Internet dating and pharmaceutical interventions for sexual dysfunction on their sexual experiences are as yet unclear. There is also sparse evidence on whether this ‘baby boomer’ generation view their sexual selves through ageist or gendered norms. There has, however, been a steady rise in sexually transmitted infection rates among the over 45 age group in recent years.
Jenny Dalrymple (PhD student), has been conducting a qualitative study, to explore late middle aged heterosexual adults’ (age 45-65 years) negotiation of partnerships within the context of risks for sexually transmitted infections. The study is die to be compete in late 2014.
Jen MacDonald (PhD student) has been conducting a review to describe the existing evidence base of interventions designed specifically to increase condom use intentions and/or behaviour in this population (≥40 years) and evaluate their effectiveness. An examination of the behaviour change techniques (BCTs) in these interventions was also undertaken.
Blood Borne Viruses
The research of this group focuses on the epidemiology of blood-borne viruses – hepatitis (B and C) and HIV – and quantitative understanding of the lifestyle factors and interventions which influence the acquisition of infection and development of disease. The research is both methodological and applied, involves working with professionals from a wide-range of disciplines (addiction, epidemiology, genetics, health economics, health protection, hepatology, infectious diseases, general practice, mathematics, microbiology, nursing, public health, sociology, statistics, and virology) and spans activities including infectious disease modelling, novel record-linkage studies and evaluation of public health interventions.
This group has an excellent track record in translating research into evidence-based public health policy and practice at the local, national and global level, having generated the key evidence for and supported the following:
The Scottish Government, in relation to the:
Hepatitis C Action Plan for Scotland
Sexual Health and Blood Borne Virus Framework
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), in relation to their guidance on the Prevention and control of infectious diseases among people who inject drugs
The World Health Organisation, in relation to their Global Hepatitis Programme and specifically the development of guidelines for:
The screening, care and treatment of chronic hepatitis C infection in low- and middle-income countries
The surveillance of viral hepatitis in low- and middle-income countries
Inequalities in sexual health
Trends exist in relation to low socio-economic status (SES) impacting upon sexual health, and this is compounded by those in low SES often being part of sexual networks with high underlying rates of STI’s and HIV.
Dr Karen Lorimer is leading Chief Scientist Office funded work (£160, 585) aiming to explore how prevailing constructions of masculinity in the most socio-economically deprived areas of Scotland are related to sexual health attitudes and behaviours in adult heterosexual men; whether/how these are related to adverse sexual, physical or mental health outcomes for men, their sexual contacts and partners, and other women; and to use the findings to inform the development of interventions to improve sexual health outcomes for those in areas of high deprivation. Fieldwork on this 18 month qualitative study will commence Sept 2013.
Dr Karen Lorimer
Tel: 0141 331 8860