Centre for Sexual Health & HIV Research

The Director of the Centre is Dr Richard Gilson.

The Centre was founded in 1979, as the Academic Department of Genitourinary Medicine, with the creation of the Duncan Guthrie Chair, the first in this speciality in the world.

It is based in the Mortimer Market Centre, where it shares accommodation with the largest clinic for sexual health and HIV disease in Europe. Since then, the Centre has expanded steadily and is now staffed by a multidisciplinary team of epidemiologists, clinicians, statisticians and behavioural scientists examining a wide range of issues relating to sexual health and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV and viral hepatitis.

Current Research Studies:

National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles

In partnership with colleagues at the National Centre for Social Research and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, staff at the Centre have led the three National Surveys of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles ('Natsal') in 1990, 2000, and 2010. The Natsal surveys are stratified probability sample surveys of the general population, resident in Britain. The first Natsal survey, conducted 1990-1991, was one of the largest of its kind internationally. 18,876 men and women aged 16-59 years were interviewed for 'Natsal-1’ . It was supported by a grant from the Wellcome Trust. Results from the first Natsal were published in the widely cited book 'Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles' by Anne Johnson, Jane Wadsworth, Kaye Wellings and Julia Field (Blackwell, Oxford, 1994).

A second Natsal survey was conducted in 1999-2001 ('Natsal-2’). 11,161 people aged 16-44 years were interviewed as a 'core' sample, and an additional 949 people of Black African, Black Caribbean, Indian, and Pakistani ethnicity interviewed as part of an ethnic minority boost sample. Half of the second Natsal survey's core sample also participated in urine testing for Chlamydia Trachomatis. The second survey was supported by a grant from the Medical Research Council with funds from the Department of Health, the Scottish Executive, and the National Assembly for Wales.

The third Natsal survey (‘Natsal-3') was conducted in 2010-2012. More than 15,000 people aged 16-74 years were interviewed. The third survey is supported by a grant from the Medical Research Council and The Wellcome Trust with additional funding  from the Department of Health, the Economic and Social Research Council.

Initial results from Natsal-2 were published in the Lancet in 2001, followed by a large number of peer-reviewed articles and reports..

The Natsal surveys have proved to be major reference sources for research into sexual behaviour, and have been used for a number of purposes, including:

- Informing future estimates and projections of HIV prevalence and AIDS incidence 
- Measuring changes in behaviour over time 
- Planning appropriate sexual health services and health promotion strategies 
- Improving our understanding of STI epidemiology

Click here for a list of these publications, plus also the publications containing results from the first survey, Natsal 1990. 

The first from Natsal-3 will be published in 2013.

For more information about Natsal and the latest publications please visit the study website www.natsal.ac.uk

aMASE: Advancing Migrant Access to health Services in Europe

About aMASE

People from all over the world use health services in the UK. People born abroad are more likely to seek help at health services when they are very ill and this can be very bad for their health. To find out what stops some people from coming to health services earlier researchers from across Europe have come together to carry out a survey. With this information we will be able to improve services for all people who use health services in Europe.


Who is organising and funding this research?

This research is funded by the European Union. It is being undertaken by researchers from University College London and the Institute of Health Carlos III in Spain. Dr Fiona Burns is responsible for the project in the UK and all the data. Ethical approval for the study has been obtained from The London Bentham Research Ethics Committee

Who should take part?

We need people who are living outside their country of birth to tell us their experiences of health services so we can know what’s good, what’s bad and what can be improved. We're looking for people who are over 16 and planning to live where they are currently staying for longer than 6 months. Participation is entirely voluntary.  Those who  decide to take part an print out an  information sheet to keep. They  will be asked to tick a box at the beginning of the questionnaire to say that they agree to taking part. If a person changes their mind at any time they can simply close the questionnaire.

What does taking part involve?

Taking part involves filling in a questionnaire about using health services. Pariticpants will also be asked personal questions (for example, sexual behaviour, and injection drug use). The questionnaire should take approximately 15-20 minutes to complete. Some of the questions are very personal. Any question that participants really do not wish to answer, or feel they cannot answer, can be missed out. 

Will the information be kept safe?

Yes. All information will be kept strictly confidential. We do not ask any identifying data in the questionnaireso you will not be recognised from your answers. All answers that given are anonymous and will be kept securely.

What will happen to the results of the study?

The results will be shared with migrant communities across Europe, the health services and organisations committed to the health and wellbeing of migrant communities. They will also be written up for publication in academic journals. 

For more information about EuroCoord go to www.eurocoord.net

To find out more about aMASE or to complete the survey visit www.amase.eu

Clinical and cost-effectiveness of technologies for testing and treating sexual partners of people with sexually transmitted infections

Evidence synthesis and mathematical modelling study

The overall aim of this study is to provide information for public health planning about the comparative disease control potential and cost-effectiveness of different strategies for treating and testing the sexual partners of people with sexually transmitted infections (STI). This will be achieved through mathematical modelling and economic evaluation to address the following specific objectives:

1. To provide the best available data about model parameters rapidly and efficiently through the use of existing and planned datasets; 

2. To compare the clinical effectiveness of different approaches to providing treatment and testing for the partners of people with curable STI;

3. To determine the incremental cost-effectiveness of different approaches to providing treatment and testing for the partners of people with curable STI, compared with recommended practice;

4. To provide research recommendations for primary research.

This multidisciplinary, multicentre study is led by Professor Nicola Low at the Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine, University of Bern in Switzerland, with Dr Catherine Mercer from the Centre for Sexual Health and HIV Research at UCL as a co-applicant.

Funder: National Co-ordinating Centre for Health Technology Assessment

Project duration: March 2009 – September 2011

MSTIC: How to maximise STI control for a local population

The MSTIC study is a multidisciplinary, multicentre study led by Dr Catherine Mercer in the Centre for Sexual Health and HIV Research at UCL. The MSTIC study aims to create a web-based software tool to help inform local decision-making choices regarding the impact of different combinations of health services on the transmission of sexually transmitted infections (STI). The web-tool is based on the results of a mathematical model that identifies the key parameters to be considered in determining the combination of specialist and primary-care based services that will have the greatest public health benefit in terms of reducing STI transmission. While data for some of these parameters are routinely-collected, such as census data and data collected for surveillance purposes, as other data are not, a Rapid Assessment Module was developed as part of the MSTIC study to collect these data. This is a short, pseudo-anonymous, patient questionnaire that can be linked to the patient’s clinical data, resulting in valuable data for service planning either with or without of the MSTIC web-tool.

Funder: Medical Research Council

Project duration: April 2008 – December 2010

Targeting young men for better sexual health: The BALLSEYE programme

The BALLSEYE programme aims to improve the sexual health of young men in the UK through three studies: resolving an evidence gap in strategies for the diagnosis of sexually transmitted infections (STI), using mathematical modeling and health economic analysis, to determine an optimal STI screening algorithm for asymptomatic men (study 1); implementing new methods for rapid treatment of male sex partners of people with STIs in primary care (study 2); determining methods of  engaging men in effective STI control activity including pilot of a novel model for promotion of STI testing by football trainers (study 3). This multidisciplinary, multicentre study is led by Dr Claudia Estcourt at Barts and the London Queen Mary's School of Medicine and Dentistry, with Professor Graham Hart, Professor Anne Johnson, Dr Andrew Copas and Dr Catherine Mercer from the Centre for Sexual Health and HIV Research at UCL as co-applicants.

Funder: National Institute for Health Research

Project duration: April 2009 – March 2014

Prime Study

The PRIME study (Positive tRansItions through the MEnopause) is a three year NIHR-funded quantitative and qualitative study that will explore, for the first time in the UK, the impact of the menopause on HIV-positive women’s health and wellbeing.

To find out more, visit the PRIME Study website

LHPP evaluation

The HIV epidemic in the UK is concentrated in London and in two at risk communities, men who have sex with men (MSM) and black African heterosexual men and women.

UCL is working with Public Health England to evaluate the London-wide HIV Prevention Programme (LHPP). The LHPP is an evidence-based behavioural intervention that aims is to reduce new HIV infections (incidence) and late diagnosis of HIV infection (and thus reduce the prevalence of those with undiagnosed HIV). It has three key elements:

· Media and communications on HIV for all Londoners, with specific campaigns for MSM and black African communities, focusing on HIV testing and condom use, with the brand, “Do it London”

· Condom procurement and distribution (for MSM only)

· Targeted digital and risk-focused outreach (for MSM only)

Aim & objectives of evaluation

The overall aim of the evaluation is to establish the extent to which the LHPP meets its aims and objectives and through what methods. We are assessing the evaluation objectives using mixed methods:

(i) Two large scale cross-sectional community surveys among MSM and black Africans. Respondents are asked to complete a short anonymous questionnaire and provide an oral swab, which will be anonymously tested for HIV.

To find out more about the black African survey, visit the Mayisha 2016 web-site or email: mayisha@ucl.ac.uk

To find out more about the Gay Men’s Sexual Health Survey 2016 email: gmshs@ucl.ac.uk

(ii) Analysis of surveillance data including GUMCAD (routinely collected data from English GUM clinics) and data from HIV clinics.

(iii) Focus group discussions with MSM and black Africans.

(iv) Process analysis including examination of process records of those delivering the intervention and in-depth interviews with key stakeholders.

Funder: LHPP and NIHR SPHR

Project duration: November 2015 – March 2017

The project is led by Dr Fiona Burns and Dr Alison Rodger.

For more information, please contact the project manager: Dr Alison Howarth

LUSTRUM: Limiting Undetected Sexually Transmitted Infections to RedUce Morbidity

LUSTRUM is a five-year programme of mixed methods research led by Professor Claudia Estcourt, from Central & North West London NHS Trust and University College London. 

LUSTRUM aims to improve the sexual health of heterosexual people and men who have sex with men (MSM). The programme aims to achieve this by preventing transmission of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and reducing undiagnosed HIV.

The LUSTRUM programme is divided into three Streams:

  • STREAM A – Partnership Typologies and RCT of Accelerated Partner Therapy (APT)
  • STREAM B – Mathematical modelling of partner notification for STIs and HIV
  • STREAM C – Development of partner notification interventions for MSM

Funder: National Institute for Health Research (NIHR)

Project duration: April 2016 – March 2021

To find out more please follow us on twitter @LUSTRUM_5, visit the LUSTRUM study website or contact iph.lustrum@ucl.ac.uk

For general information about the Centre, contact Wendy Chandler at w.chandler@ucl.ac.uk

Page last modified on 19 sep 16 15:07