BCN Checkpoint, community center for detectioon of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) managed by Projecte dels NOMS-Hispanosida, launches the Check-early study in collaboration with IrsiCaixa (Institute for AIDS Research) and the Fight AIDS Foundation. It is a new study on the incidence and prevalence of STIs among men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender women comprising a free and confidential screening program for these infections.
For a year, people who take part in this new study will follow a program to monitor major STIs, including tests for HIV, syphilis, chlamydia, gonorrhea and hepatitis A, B and C.
The project also aims to demonstrate that the collaboration of a community center as BCN Checkpoint and a referral HIV hospital can be very effective and efficient in minimizing the time between a new infection and when it reaches an undetectable viral load level. This allows the person infected to mantain normal levels of CD4 or facilitate recovery, to have fewer reservoirs of HIV, to reduce anxiety about the risks of transmission and, ultimately, to have a better quality of life.
Check-early is the continuation of Check-ear, a study initiated in December 2009, which have engaged a total of 268 MSM and transgender women. Dr. Pep Coll, principal investigator of both studies, notes that about 15% of the participants in Check-ear have been diagnosed with an STI but had no obvious symptoms. In this sense, Coll warns that despite they are often asymptomatic "if not detected and treated early, these infections can have adverse effects on the health of people and keep being transmitted". The director of BCN Checkpoint, Ferran Pujol, also stresses that the presence of other STIs significantly increases the risk of becoming infected with HIV, "especially those that cause lesions or ulcers that facilitate the virus entry" and adds that, in fact, "given the prevalence shown by the Check-ear study, screening ITS in this whole population would be be cost-efficient."