According to the San Francisco Department of Public Health (DPH), the rate of gonorrhea infections among gay men are about 30 times higher than that of the general population. While such infections are less common than in the 1970s and 1980s, the rate of infection has begun to increase. The DPH reports that the annual number of cases has increased by one-third since 2008.
Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted disease that can cause infections in the penis, the throat, the rectum and in a woman’s vagina. It can be contracted by having anal, vaginal or oral sex with an infected person.
For men, signs of a gonorrhea infection in the penis include:
— A burning sensation when urinating,
— A white, yellow or green discharge from the penis, and
— Painful or swollen testicles (although this is less common).
Signs of a rectal infection include:
— Anal discharge or itching,
— Soreness and or bleeding, and
— Painful bowel movements.
As many as ten percent of infected men may exhibit no symptoms.
Gonorrhea can cause infertility in men and women. In men, if left untreated it can cause inflammation of the prostate gland and of the urethra, which is the canal from which urine is discharged fromthe penis. Rarer consequences include arthritis in the fingers, wrists, toes and ankles and blindness from conjunctivitis. While it is extremely rate, untreated gonorrhea may cause heart disease or meningitis among those with suppressed immune systems, such as men with HIV.
Gonorrhea once was easily treated with one of several antibiotics. But today “San Francisco, along with other cities on the West Coast of the U.S., is a site of possible emergence of drug-resistant gonorrhea,” according to Barbara Garcia, director of the San Francisco Department of Public Health.
According to Dr. Susan Philip, the DPH’s director of Disease Prevention and Control, pharmaceutical companies don’t have any new gonorrhea drugs in development.