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Extension of application for research funding and PhD Studentship to June 30, 2024

We invite researchers in various fields related to sexual health, HIV and other sexually transmitted infections to apply for funds to undertake:

  1. Original research
  2. Part funding of PhD Studentship

Sexually Transmitted Infections Research Foundation (STIRF) was set up to pump prime research projects relating to the epidemiology, pathophysiology, management, and health care delivery of sexually transmitted infections and HIV in the West Midlands, Trent, Yorkshire, Northern and North West regions.

The primary aim is to provide initial funding to allow promising projects from researchers early in their career to obtain preliminary results as a prelude to acquire further funds from larger funding bodies.

We invite applications from researchers in the above regions on projects or part funding of PhD Studentships relating to sexual health, sexually transmitted diseases and HIV. All projects will be initially screened by the Scientific Committee of STIRF and those considered suitable will be sent for peer review by experts in the field.

The following fields of research will be considered in relation to sexual health, STIs and HIV:

  • Epidemiology of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases
  • Research on HPV and other sexually transmissible malignancies
  • Health care delivery including views of clients
  • Issues relating to deprived or marginalised communities.
  • Pathophysiology of diseases and syndromes
  • Inter-relationship between diseases
  • Treatment modalities
  • Complications of treatment and co-morbidities

Applications for research grants should not exceed £60,000 in the first year. Depending on satisfactory reports a further £30,000 may be available for the second year. Joint funding with other grant giving bodies will be considered. Applications for part funding of PhD Studentship should not exceed a maximum of £70,000 over 3-4 years

For further information and guidance on how to apply for a research grant visit:

And for details of how to apply for part funding of a PhD Studentship visit:

Deadline for applications (both for research projects and PhD Studentship) for 2024/5 is June 3o, 2024

Published project 2022: Chemsex, HIV, mental health and other health outcomes

Project title:

Chem-sex, HIV, mental health and other health outcomes amongst gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (GBMSM): a longitudinal qualitative interview project. STIRF 032


The key aim of this study was to explore how chemsex (the use of drugs such as methamphetamine, GBL, ketamine and mephedrone in sexual contexts) is effecting gay, bisexual and men who have sex with men. The focus of this study was to explore two areas in particular depth for their links with chemsex, namely: HIV seroconversion, and mental health.

Research setting: Division of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work | School of Health Sciences | Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health | The University of Manchester.

Project was completed in December 2018.

The results published in 2022:

Nagington and King (2022) Support, care and peer support for gay and bi men who engage in chemsex

Funding for this project has been kindly provided by JoLi Trust and University Hospitals Birmingham Charity

Teenager guide to Sexual health

Before deciding whether they’re ready to begin having sex or doing other sexual activities, it’s important for teenagers to understand the risks they will take on if they choose to start having sex.

Teenagers should be well aware of the potential consequences of their actions, including raising their risk of being exposed to sexually transmitted diseases as well as, potentially, having an unintended pregnancy, but they also should know about how they can reduce or limit the risk of negative consequences of sexual activity.

Visit this site for more information

New PhD project funded

We are delighted that Xola Potelwa has been awarded a STIRF PhD studentship. Xola is undertaking her PhD at the University of York, under the supervision of Dr Amanda Mason-Jones.

Xola is an early career researcher who was previously based in Johannesburg, South Africa where she was leading a team that is investigating comorbidities amongst residents in Soweto, a large peri-urban settlement in the south of the city. She has worked on research projects in fields such as human rights law, diagnostics, youth leadership and health. Prior to that Xola spent several years interacting with emerging market policymakers and traders as a financial journalist for Bloomberg and Reuters. She earned her master’s degree in Health Sociology from the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg where she investigated uptake of the HPV vaccine amongst middle class and wealthy families in South Africa. Xola likes to read for pleasure. It is possible that she has moved to York simply to finally learn how to ride a bicycle!

Project on after care of sexual violence and funded jointly by STIRF and UHB Charity is published

Measuring patient experience and outcome in health care settings on receiving care after sexual violence: a systematic review

Project number: 035

This project was completed in March 2018.

The aim was to identify key themes regarded by patients as priorities for delivering a high-quality service for individuals who have experienced sexual violence.

The investigators found that while the experience and outcome as reported by the patients are important measures in themselves, there are are no gold standard instruments against which their experience can be measured.

The patients themselves identified the need to feel in control throughout, which is enabled by listening without judgment, carefully conveying information.

The findings present challenges for healthcare professionals who may feel obligated to ensure particular outcomes, such as emergency contraception being offered when the patient simply wants to be offered choices.

Funding for this project has been kindly provided by JoLi Trust and University Hospitals Birmingham Charity.

Publication: Caswell RJ, Ross, JDC and Lorimer K. Sex Transm Infect 2019;95:419–427. doi:10.1136/sextrans-2018-053920

Sexually transmitted infections: challenges ahead

A commissioned article in Lancet Infectious Diseases on July 9, 2017 highlights some of the major issues and challenges facing us in the growing global epidemic of sexually transmitted infections (STI). Authors Prof Mabhus Unemo et al summarise the key issues as follows:

WHO estimated that nearly 1 million people become infected every day with any of four curable sexually transmitted infections (STIs): chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis, and trichomoniasis. Despite their high global incidence, STIs remain a neglected area of research.

In this Commission, we have prioritised five areas that represent particular challenges in STI treatment and control.

Chlamydia remains the most commonly diagnosed bacterial STI in high-income countries despite widespread testing recommendations, sensitive and specific non-invasive testing techniques, and cheap effective therapy. We discuss the challenges for chlamydia control and evidence to support a shift from the current focus on infection-based screening to improved management of diagnosed cases and of chlamydial morbidity, such as pelvic inflammatory disease.

The emergence and spread of antimicrobial resistance in Neisseria gonorrhoeae is globally recognised. We review current and potential future control and treatment strategies, with a focus on novel antimicrobials.

Bacterial vaginosis is the most common vaginal disorder in women, but current treatments are associated with frequent recurrence. Recurrence after treatment might relate to evidence that suggests sexual transmission is integral to the pathogenesis of bacterial vaginosis, which has substantial implications for the development of effective management approaches.

STIs disproportionately affect low-income and middle-income countries. We review strategies for case management, focusing on point-of-care tests that hold considerable potential for improving STI control.

Lastly, STIs in men who have sex with men have increased since the late 1990s. We discuss the contribution of new biomedical HIV prevention strategies and risk compensation.

Overall, this Commission aims to enhance the understanding of some of the key challenges facing the field of STIs, and outlines new approaches to improve the clinical management of STIs and public health.

Read full article on Lancet Infectious Diseases

One in ten men in Britain report paying for sex sometime in their life – a national study

The National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (NATSAL) is a survey of men and women carried out in the Britain every 10 years. It remains the most extensive and accurate study of sexual behaviour in a carefully selected population of men and women in the UK that reflect the population of sexually active individuals.

Natsal-3 is a  sample survey of 15,162 men and women (6,293 men) aged 16–74 years, resident in Britain, undertaken between September 2010 and August 2012. Participants were interviewed using a combination of face-to-face, computer-assisted, personal interviewing (CAPI) and computer-assisted self-interviewing (CASI). The more sensitive questions, including those on paying for sex and sex while outside the UK, were asked in the CASI.  

Kyle Jones and her colleagues reported on the results of the questions relating to men who admitted to have paid for sex. 

Their results show that round one in 10 men in Britain report having ever paid for sex at some time. These men are more sexually active than men who do not report having had paid for sex. They have a higher number of sexual partners, only a minority (18.4%) of which are paid.

They are also more likely to report a diagnoses of a sexually transmitted infection (STI) even when accounting for their disproportionately larger number of sexual partners (which is considered the most important behavioural variable associated with STI diagnoses).

This evidence strongly supports the idea that this subgroup of men are a bridge for the sort of sexual mixing (dissociative mixing) that increases the spread of STIs.

Men who pay for sex (MPS) are most likely to be aged between 25 and 34 years, single, in managerial or professional occupations, and have high partner numbers.

After adjusting for the key risk behaviour of sexual partner numbers, these men still report many other sexual behaviours, such as having new foreign partners while outside the UK, less attendance at STI clinic and less condom use. They therefore show an increased vulnerability to STI without taking the necessary precautions.

Interestingly, for some reported behaviours, such as sex partners outside the UK, same sex contact, sex partners found online, and concurrent partners (more than one partner at any time), total and paid partner numbers increase.

This suggests that MPS exhibiting these behaviours have higher lifetime partner numbers than other MPS as well as higher paid partner numbers, putting them at a higher risk for STIs than other MPS.

Effectiveness of alcohol advise in sexual health clinics

Are sexual health (sexually transmitted infection) clinics a suitable venue to give advise on alcohol abuse? A recently published randomised controlled trial of rapid screening and advise in three London-based sexual health clinics showed little effect of screening and advise on alcohol consumption, or unsafe sexual behaviour six months later.

802 people aged 19 years or over who attended one of three sexual health clinics and were drinking excessively were randomised to either brief advice or control treatment. Brief advice consisted of feedback on alcohol and health, written information and an offer of an appointment with an Alcohol Health Worker. Control participants received a leaflet on health and lifestyle.

The primary outcome was mean weekly alcohol consumption during the previous 90 days measured 6 months after randomisation. The main secondary outcome was unprotected sex during this period.

Among the 402 randomised to brief advice, the adjusted mean difference in alcohol consumption at 6 months was −2.33 units per week (95% CI −4.69 to 0.03, p=0.053) among those in the active compared to the control arm of the trial.

Unprotected sex was reported by 53% of those who received brief advice, and 59% controls (p=0.496).

In a linked leading article in the journal Sexually Transmitted Infections Keith Radcliffe and Nicola Thornley review the links between alcohol misuse and unsafe sexual practices. They report conflicting information as to the benefits of behaviour intervensions, both in terms of reduction in the consumption of alcohol and in unsafe sexual behaviour.

The current study adds to the growing literature on the difficulties of behaviour intervention in having lasting effects on behaviour changes, whether it is sexual or eating habits.

Clearly more work is needed to help translate knowledge into behaviour.


Malcom Gibb

Malcom Gibb who had served on the Board of Trustees since 2009 sadly passed away in early January this year. Malcom not only supported STIRF since its early inception but through his links with the Jo Li Foundation provided regular financial support. Without his help STIRF would not have been able to fund many of the projects that were successfully completed. The board of Trustees of STIRF send their deepest condolences to the family and friends of Malcom. I will miss him, not only as a valued colleague, but even more as a very dear friend.