What Is LGV?
LGV stands for ’lymphogranuloma venereum’. It’s a sexually transmitted infection caused by a certain type of Chlamydia bacteria.
It’s common in places like Africa, Asia, South America and the Caribbean but is very rare elsewhere. We have recently been informed by the NSW Public Health Unit about an increase in infections among gay men in NSW to a level not seen since 2010. While the total number of infections is small (52 in 2016), it is still important to be aware of LGV, particularly if you live/play in metropolitan Sydney.
How is LGV transmitted?
The LGV bacteria gets into the body through tiny abrasions of the skin and the warm moist mucus lining of the mouth, penis or inside of the rectum. During sex, friction can cause minute abrasions in mucosal surfaces that allow the bacteria to enter the body. Anal sex without condoms is the easiest way this happens. Using things like dildos in more than one man’s arse without condoms or cleaning can also spread LGV.
How would I know if I have LGV?
As with all STIs, LGV can be asymptomatic and it can be passed on by someone who doesn’t know they have it.
However it is not uncommon to experience fever, discharge, bleeding or pain when urinating or shitting, to painful abscesses/ulcers in the arse. Symptoms typically occur 3-30 days after infection.
Early treatment is key and will typically involve a 21 day course of antibiotics.. Without treatment it can lead to more serious complications.
A routine STI check will not typically test for LGV. However, due to this current spike in notifications, your clinician may test for, particularly if you have specific symptoms.
If your samples test positive for Chlamydia, more tests may be needed to see if it is LGV rather than the more common type of chlamydia. A check-up is crucial if any symptoms of inflammation inside the rectum or in the penis occur. Sex should be avoided until a STI check has been undertaken.
Using condoms and water-based lube reduce the chances of getting LGV, as does using latex gloves during fisting. Dildos and other sex toys should not be shared or should be covered with a condom that is changed with every new person they are used on or washed between partners.
Having LGV makes it easier to pick and pass on HIV because of the bleeding and skin damage LGV causes. It also puts you at higher risk of other STIs like syphilis.