1. Come Out to Your Healthcare Provider
In order to provide the best care possible, clinicians should know their patients’ sexuality. It should prompt them to ask specific questions and offer appropriate testing. If a healthcare provider does not seem comfortable with gay and bisexual patients, find another provider.
2. HIV/AIDS and Safe Sex
Many men who have sex with men are at an increased risk of HIV infection, this isn’t new information. However, men should also discuss and be aware of what to do in the event of exposure to HIV (Post-Exposure-Prophylaxis)—contacting a healthcare provider immediately following an exposure to explore options.
3. Hepatitis Immunization and Screening
Men who have sex with men are at an increased risk of sexually transmitted infection with the viruses that cause the serious condition of the liver known as hepatitis. These infections can be potentially fatal, and can lead to very serious long-term issues such as liver failure and liver cancer.
Problems with body image are more common among gay men, and gay and bisexual men are much more likely to experience an eating disorder such as bulimia or anorexia nervosa. While regular exercise is very good for your health, too much of a good thing can be harmful.
5. Substance Use/Alcohol
Gay and bisexual men use substances at a higher rate than the general population, and not just in larger cities. These include a number of substances ranging from amyl nitrate (“poppers”), to marijuana, Ecstasy, and amphetamines. The long-term effects of many of these substances are unknown; however current wisdom suggests potentially serious consequences as we age.
Depression and anxiety appear to affect gay and bisexual men at a higher rate than in the general population. Culturally sensitive mental health services targeted specifically at gay men may be more effective in the prevention, early detection, and treatment of these conditions.
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) occur in sexually active gay men at a high rate. There is absolutely no doubt that safe sex reduces the risk of sexually transmitted diseases, and prevention of these infections through safe sex is key. The more partners you have in a year, the more often you should be screened.
8. Prostate, Testicular, and Colon Cancer
Gay and bisexual men may be at risk for death by prostate, testicular, or colon cancer. Screening for these cancers occurs at different times across the life cycle, and access to screening services may be harder for gay men because of not getting culturally sensitive care.
Gay and bisexual men use tobacco at much higher rates than straight men, reaching nearly 50 percent in several studies. All gay men should be screened for and offered culturally sensitive prevention and cessation programs for tobacco use.
Of all the sexually transmitted infections gay men are at risk for, human papilloma virus (HPV) — which cause anal and genital warts — infections may play a role in the increased rates of anal cancers in gay and bisexual men. Some health professionals now recommend routine screening with anal Pap Smears, similar to the test done for women to detect early cancers. Treatments for HPV do exist, but recurrences of the warts are very common, and the rate at which the infection can be spread between partners is very high.
*Informed by statistics from the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association (now known as Health Professionals Advancing LGBT Equality), PRIDE Institute of Minneapolis, and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
Be sure to check out these other Health features:
Rainbow Health Initiative: On the Way to Health Equality
Ten Things Lesbian and Bisexual Women Should Discuss with Their Healthcare Provider
Ten Things Transgender Persons Should Discuss with Their Healthcare Provider