Higher STI risk during World Cup

HIGH TIMES: Rugby World Cup fans celebrate on Courtenay Place following the All Blacks winning the 2011 World Cup.
HIGH TIMES: Rugby World Cup fans celebrate on Courtenay Place following the All Blacks winning the 2011 World Cup.

Men who had sex after parties, pubs or games relating to the Rugby World Cup last year were more at risk of contracting a sexually transmitted infection, new research shows.

It is for that reason that a group of sexual health clinicians are arguing that condoms should continually be promoted and alcohol availability limited at large sporting events in the future.

In fact, one of the lead authors of the study proposes that alcohol sponsorship of sporting events should be made illegal.

“People who are outside of their homes behave in different ways and the whole Rugby World Cup was sold as a big party, so we expected there would be a lot of drinking,” University of Otago professor and co-author of the study, Jennie Connor, said.

“The occurrence between drinking and sex is very high. Alcohol affects peoples’ choices on who they sleep with.”

Bacterial STI diagnoses increased during the 2000 Sydney Olympics and the FIFA World Cup in South Africa raised concerns about sexual health and the threat of HIV.

New Zealand clinicians involved in the study suspected there would be an increased risk of people contracting STIs during the RWC tournament and say “what we thought would happen did”.

Routine data was collected from more than 2000 people who visited a sexual health clinic in Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington and Dunedin in the five weeks during last year’s tournament.

More than 70 per cent who had RWC-related sex had consumed more than three alcoholic drinks and only 22 per cent used a condom. Comparative data on alcohol consumption and condom use for those who did not have RWC-related sex was not collected.

Those presented at clinics during the tournament were asked a series of questions about the event which resulted in their visit to the clinic, and about seven per cent said it was in relation to the Rugby World Cup.

The results of the study, published in the latest issue of the international journal Sexual Health, show that men who had RWC-related sex were twice as likely to contract Chlamydia. They were also three times more likely to get non-specific urethritis, and contracted gonorrhoea five times as much as men who presented at the clinics during the same time frame, but not in relation to the RWC.

This indicated that RWC-related sex may have been more risky, the clinicians found.

However, there was no difference in the prevalence of STI diagnoses compared to the same time frame in the five previous years and a woman’s risk of developing an STI was the same as women whose visit was not related to the RWC.

“It is possible that this was because women were having less risky sex -they reported more condom use and fewer sexual partners - or because symptomatic men may have been more likely to present to sexual health clinics and be diagnosed,” the study stated.

‘There were also fewer women reporting RWC-related sex in general.”

Connor said that this study shouldn’t be “over-interpreted”.

“I don’t want to read too much into the results, it’s really just a flag – we should be aware of this.”

The Dominion Post