Disease risk higher for swingers than prostitutes

Wed Jun 23, 2010 7:04pm EDT
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By Kate Kelland

LONDON (Reuters) - Scientists studying swingers -- straight couples who regularly swap sexual partners and indulge in group sex at organized meeting -- say they have higher rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) than prostitutes.

Dutch researchers publishing their work in the British Medical Journal showed that older swingers -- those over the age of 45 -- are particularly vulnerable and yet are a group largely ignored by healthcare services.

With estimates that the swinger population could be many millions across the world, the scientists said there was a risk this untreated group could act as an STI "transmission bridge to the entire population."

"Although exact estimates are unavailable, the swingers' population is probably large," wrote Anne-Marie Niekamp, who worked on the study with colleagues from Maastricht University.

The Dutch study analyzed the numbers of patients seeking treatment in 2007 and 2008 at three sexual health clinics in South Limburg in the Netherlands.

The clinics have recorded whether a patient is a swinger since the start of 2007, in an attempt to track infection rates among this group.

During the study period, there were just under 9,000 consultations at the three clinics. One in nine of the patients was a swinger, with an average age of 43.

Overall, combined rates of Chlamydia and gonorrhea were just over 10 percent among straight people, 14 percent among gay men, just under 5 percent in female prostitutes, and 10.4 percent among swingers, they found. And female swingers had higher infection rates than male swingers.   Continued...