Just like other men, gay and bisexual men should know how to protect their health. Heart disease and cancer may be the leading cause of death in men, but gay and bisexual men are also more affected by depression, tobacco and alcohol use, as well as higher rates of HIV and STDs (sexually transmitted diseases). For these reasons, it is important to understand gay and bisexual health.
Why is it Important to Protect Your Health?
There are a few reasons why gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men may have higher rates of STDs and HIV. These include:
- Prevalence of HIV among sexual partners of gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men is 40 times that of sexual partners of heterosexual men;
- Receptive anal sex is 18 times riskier for HIV acquisition than receptive vaginal sex;
- Gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men on average have a greater number of lifetime sexual partners.
Other factors that can affect your ability to receive appropriate care:
- Fear of speaking about your sexual orientation or sexual history
- Stigma (negative and usually unfair beliefs)
- Fear of losing your job
- Discrimination (unfairly treating a person or group of people differently)
- Concerns about confidentiality
- Lack of access to culturally- and orientation-appropriate medical and support services
These issues may prevent you from seeking testing, prevention and treatment services, as well as support from friends and family.
Because such a large percentage of gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men have HIV and STDs, as a group they have higher chances of being exposed o these diseases.
Also, because so many men don’t know their HIV/STD status, they may not seek treatment and may unknowingly spread the disease. Most gay and bisexual men get HIV from anal sex, the riskiest type of sex for getting or spreading HIV. It is also important to remember that either partner can get HIV during anal sex.
To protect your health, as well as your partner’s, you need to know which tests you should have and how often they should be done. The CDC recommends the following tests for sexually active gay and bisexual men.
- HIV (at least once a year)
- Hepatitis B
- Hepatitis C if you were born between 1945 to 1965 or with risk behaviors
- Chlamydia and gonorrhea of the rectum if you’ve had receptive anal sex or been a “bottom” in the past year
- Chlamydia and gonorrhea of the penis (urethra) if you have had insertive anal sex (been on the “top”) or received oral sex in the past year
- Gonorrhea of the throat if you’ve given oral sex (your mouth on your partner’s penis, vagina, or anus) in the past year
Your doctor may also suggest a test for herpes. If you are having sex with more than one partner, or with people that you do not know, you should be tested more frequently, usually every 3-6 months.
Your doctor needs to know everything about your sexual history in order to properly care for you. Meaning, you will need to be open and honest in your discussions. Importantly, you should have a LGBTQ provider that understands gay and bisexual health. Someone that you trust and are comfortable with.
The CDC recommends the following vaccines for gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men.
- Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B vaccinations
- Two doses of the Hepatitis A vaccine, 6 months apart.
- A series of three doses of the Hepatitis B vaccine are usually given.
- There is also a combination vaccine for both Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B. It is usually given as a series of three doses.
- Seasonal flu
- The vaccine is a single dose shot given before the start of the flu season each year.
Human papillomavirus (HPV)
The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine is also available up to 26 years of age. HPV vaccine can prevent genital warts and other HPV-associated diseases and conditions. The HPV vaccine is given as a three-dose series over a six-month period. It is best to be vaccinated before your first sexual contact, but later vaccination can still protect you if you have not been exposed to HPV yet.
Lowering Your Risk of STDs
Understanding how STDs are spread can help you reduce your chances of getting an STD.
- Talk openly with your partner about STDs and getting tested—before you have sex.
- Limit your number of sexual partners.
- Use a condom every time you have sex.
- Think twice about mixing alcohol and/or drugs with sex. They can lower your ability to make good decisions and can lead to risky behavior—like having sex without a condom.
Gay and Bisexual Health in D.C.
As a gay, bisexual, or other man who has sex with men, you have unique medical needs. It is important to take these things seriously and work to protect your health. If you are searching for a provider that is accepting, professional, and sensitive to your needs, please contact us today and let us help you stay healthy.