If you are anything like us, and the vast majority of gay males around the world, you enjoy having sex with other men. Maybe one at a time, or in groups, but either way, sex is an important part of your normal healthy life routine. But, as much as we love sex, especially anal sex, there is one huge draw back; sexually transmitted diseases!
And, If you truly are like us, you are tired of contracting STDs from your sexual partners. Really, enough is enough! It is not fair for some of us to be responsible for the sexual health of our entire community, while others reap the benefits without a care in the world. It takes at least two to have intercourse and all parties need to be adult enough to know their status, and make every effort not to spread illnesses and diseases. This should not be a hard concept to swallow.
It also does not take a genius to know that STDs can ruin a good time. Depending on your body, the symptoms may be mild to high. The consequences can be for a week or life long. The worst part is that we have the knowledge and technology to slow the spread of EVERY SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED ILLNESS, if not eradicate them from our lives FOREVER, if we did a few simple things.
We are not going to insult your intelligence by preaching about condoms, safer sex, monogamous relationships or any of the other panaceas suggested by straight folks. Like you, we live in the real world and understand that you know all about these options. If not, take a stroll around our website to learn more.
What we will do, is ask each and every one of you to help our community get rid of STDs once and for all, so that we can have healthy sexual relationships without the fear of sickness. All you need to do is:
- Get tested for ALL STDs, at least once every three months. Or more if you believe you have been exposed to an STD or are experiencing symptoms associated with one, or more. Get tested even if you don’t have symptoms.
2. If you test positive for an STD, STOP HAVING SEX until you have completed the full regiment of treatment and are cleared by your doctor.
3. Have more respect for the physical health of your sexual partners by not spreading STDs, either unknowingly or without a care. You may do this by taking precautions such as PrEP, using condoms properly, WASHING YOUR DAMN HANDS, practicing #uequalsu and KNOWING YOUR STD STATUS.
If having respect for your fellow man is not enough of a reason to get tested, we have a few points to share with you about your own physical health that may get you into a doctor’s office sooner, rather than later.
Rise in STDs
Contracting a sexual illness is as normal as having sex, and no one should be shamed or embarrassed for having one. It is not the infection that concerns us, but the huge increase over the last ten years. As long as people are having sex, some will contract an STD. Gay males have been having worrying levels that began long before the introduction of PrEP, but researchers have found that its users are seeing a drastic increase in STD infections.
Some call it condom fatigue, others a natural preference for condomless sex, but whatever you call it, the increase is causing major healthcare issues within our community. We are not saying that you must use condoms because that is a simplistic answer to a complex question. But, testing for STDs can help to slow down or even stop the transmission of every STD.
If we jump back to 2014, we can see evidence of our community’s issue.
The number of sexually transmitted infections being spread in gay men is soaring, according to Public Health England.
Figures for 2014 showed a 46% increase in syphilis infections, 32% in gonorrhoea and 26% in chlamydia.
The report said there were “high levels of condomless sex” in general and “rapid” transmission of infections in HIV-positive men.
Across all groups in England, the number of sexually transmitted infections fell by 0.3% from the previous year, to 439,243 new cases.
Chlamydia was the most common STI, accounting for nearly half of all diagnoses.
But there is a very different picture in men who have sex with men:
- Syphilis infections increased from 2,375 to 3,477
- Gonorrhoea increased from 13,629 to 18,029
- Chlamydia diagnoses increased from 9,118 to 11,468
- Genital warts increased by 10% from 3,156 to 3,456
Gonorrhea is one of the biggest worries because of the rise of antibiotic-resistant strains of the infection, which are very hard to treat.
England was not the only nation sounding the alarm bell. The United States was telling a similar story.
Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) have been rising among gay and bisexual men, with increases in syphilis being seen across the country. In 2014, gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men accounted for 83% of primary and secondary syphilis cases where sex of sex partner was known.
Neither Western Europe or Asia faired any differently when surveyed.
Since 2014, the rates of transmission have not gotten better or even slowed down. Each year has topped the last in pure percentages and number of guys infected with an STD.
As noted by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
Gay and Bisexual Men
- Make up nearly half of all 2019 primary and secondary syphilis cases.
- Gonorrhea rates were 42 times that of heterosexual men in some areas.
Diagnoses of the sexually transmitted infection lymphogranuloma venereum (LGV) in England reached record levels in 2019, with almost all cases involving gay and bisexual men. The data is set out in a report published by Public Health England and shows that the number of diagnoses increased steadily from 2017, reaching a peak in the second half of 2019.
LGV diagnoses had previously been concentrated among HIV-positive gay men, but the latest report shows there have been large increases in cases among men who were HIV negative or of unknown HIV status, reflecting changes in sexual behaviour linked to use of PrEP and awareness of the U=U (undetectable = untransmittable) message.
The headline finding from Public Health England’s latest report is that cases of LGV in 2019 were at their highest since the reemergence of the infection in 2013. There were 1133 cases reported by laboratories, a 33% increase on 2018, and there were 1076 diagnoses reported by sexual health clinics to the GUMCAD surveillance system, a 56% increase on 2018.
Almost all LGV cases (98% clinical data and 99.5% of laboratory reports) involved men. These were almost exclusively among gay and bisexual men (95%), the other infections likely involving men who identified as heterosexual who had sex with other men.
Syphilis is now more common in some European countries than new instances of HIV following a 70% rise in cases over the past decade, a new report said.
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said more than 260,000 confirmed cases of the sexually transmitted disease were reported from 30 EU/EEA countries between 2007 and 2017.
2017 alone saw 33,189 syphilis cases in 28 countries confirmed, the Stockholm-based health body added.
The ECDC said more unprotected sex and riskier sexual behavior among gay, bisexual and transgender people — often referred to as men who has sex with men (MSM) — were mostly responsible for the rise.
The gay male population’s increase in syphilis transmission around the world was so troubling that The Lancet, conducted a ten (10) year data analysis to prove the severity of this issue.
Why you should care
In the easiest and most simplistic terms, you should care because these numbers prove that either you have contracted an STD, at least once, but probably more, in your sexual life time, and that your chances of being infected again with one are very high. But, if we increase the level of STD testing throughout our entire community, we can keep this possible future from becoming a realty for you, and the rest of us.
It won’t go away on its own
Fifty percent of men show either no symptoms of STD infection or very mild ones. If you are not part of this very lucky group, depending on the STD, you may experience such symptoms as:
- Burning or itching in the penis.
- A drip (discharge) from the penis.
- Pain around pelvis.
- Sores, bumps or blisters on penis, anus, or mouth.
- Burning and pain with urine or with bowel movements.
- Having to go to the bathroom often.
- blood or pus from the anus on underwear or after using toilet paper.
- pain in the anal area when going to the bathroom or having receptive anal sex.
- constipation, painful straining or loose stool when trying to open the bowels.
- a feeling of incomplete emptying after opening the bowels.
With or without symptoms, long term complications from untreated sexually transmitted diseases include:
- Chlamydia: PID, infertility
- Genital herpes: Bladder problems, meningitis
- Gonorrhea: PID, infertility
- Hepatitis B: Cirrhosis, liver cancer
- HIV: Reduced life expectancy, opportunistic infections
- HPV: anal cancer, penile cancer
- Syphilis: Blindness, loss of motor skills, dementia, and damage to the heart, brain, eyes, kidneys, and bones
And finally, if you have an untreated STD, you will definitely be contagious and pass it on to your unknowing sexual partners. This can happen for some STDs even if you use condoms.
All STDs are TREATABLE, if not CURABLE
As gay men, a few of whom are living with HIV, but all of whom have contracted at least one STD in our sexual lives, we understand the fear and concerns around getting tested for any STD. But the bad ole days of AIDS are over. And we have not only great medications to effectivity treat it, but also ensure that those positive can not pass it on to their sexual partners. Herpes and Hep C do not have cures either, YET, but they also have amazing treatments.
Each and every one of the other STDs do have CURES. Yes, actual cures. This means that we can rid the world of these pesky illnesses if we all just do our part. The treatments are as simple as one shot, one pill, a week of medication or three weeks for LGV, but once your cycle is complete, you will be cured of the illness and the symptoms. It is that simple.
You have no REASONABLE excuse for NOT getting tested
We all have a personal responsibility to look after our own health. This includes getting regularly tested for STDs. The reason that testing becomes a greater issue for society is because what you choose to do, or not do, affects each and everyone of your sexual partners. You are therefore, not only making a choice about your own personal health, but the health and welfare of your sexual partners, and their sexual partners, and so on. This is because, even with the usage of condoms, some STDs like gonorrhea, chlamydia/LGV and even herpes can still be transmitted to others, without their knowledge or consent. Because of this fact, you have no reasonable excuse for not getting tested.
But, we are human and understand that there are very real obstacles to getting tested for STDs that many encounter.
Do not know where/how to get tested:
Depending on where you live, STD testing centers seem to be everywhere. From HIV orgs and healthcare non profits, to screening sites at community events and even at the local mall. But, this is not true for everyone. Some guys live in areas where testing is hard to achieve. This is compounded by many Americans not having health insurance or easy access to doctors or hospitals.
Do not know how to pay for STD tests:
STD tests are not always free. Some non profits do provide this service free of charge, but in some areas these tests can cost upwards of $100 EACH. The key is finding organizations that do test for free, but this may be easier said than done.
Do not have a way to pay for treatment:
This is the issue far to many do not understand is a real issue for many Americans. Due to being the only first world nation without universal healthcare coverage, those who live in the states not only face high medical bills, even if they have health insurance, but some are forced to choose between food and medication. If we are advocating for gay males to get tested for STDs for the public good, we should also make sure they are able to afford the treatments if they test positive or are able to receive them for free.
Answers and solutions
All of the above are issues and concerns that complicate getting regular tests for STDs but they are still able to be overcome, thus you have no reasonable excuse for not getting tested. Here are the ways to surmount each and everyone of the above obstacles.
This is a list of resources that can help you get STD screenings and treatment, no insurance required, for free or at low cost.
- Planned Parenthood. Many Planned Parenthood health centers provide free or low-cost STI tests, depending on income and regardless of whether you have health insurance. You can search for a Planned Parenthood location near you on their website.
- Your local health department. Many health departments operate clinics that offer free or low-cost STI testing and treatment. You can find the contact information for your local health department on the CDC website. Simply giving them a call and asking whether these services are available is a quick way to get the care you need.
- State and local Sexual health clinics. Health departments around the United States have established clinics specifically for assisting those with sexual healthcare needs. These clinics are usually free of charge for testing and treatment services. Check your local or state website for clinic locations.
- Other free or low-cost clinics. Many health clinics around the country offer free or low-cost health care, which often includes STI testing and treatment. You can look for one on the CDC’s GetTested website. Type in your zip code, and it will bring up a map of testing locations near you. You’ll also get a list of which services are offered and whether they are offered for free.
- The Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program. This federal program works to increase access to HIV-related services, including testing and medications. Search here for a participating clinic near you.
- Medication assistance programs. If you have HIV, patient assistance programs may offer you free or discounted antiretroviral medications, even if you don’t have insurance. You can apply for all of these programs with this single form.
- LGBT/HIV orgs. Most major cities and many smaller ones have some sort of non profit for sexual minorities. The vast majority do offer STD testing for free BUT most do not offer treatment, either free or otherwise, because they are not medical providers. But this might be an option for obtaining a free STD test and then seeking a referral to another facility if your test(s) return positive.
Before you go…
We hope this article helped you understand how important getting regular tests for STDs are and how you have no excuse not to get on a three month schedule for testing. Unlike other organizations, we are not going to beg or plead with you to take care of your health, because you are a grown ass man. But, we will let you know that the days of not taking care of your sexual health, at the expense of others in our community are over. We, your past, current and future sexual partners are tired of carrying the burden of STDs, including the testing and treatments but also the stigma and shame that may follow.
If you were man enough to engage in the sexual conduct, you should be man enough to follow through and get tested. This is not as big of deal as many want to make it out to be. It is simple. Get tested every three months if you are sexually active, not matter if you use condoms regularly, or are in a stable relationship. This is what your community NEEDS you to do. The question for you is, are you going to do it, or allow yourself to be a vector of continued illness and death for your brothers?
There should NEVER be shame or stigma attached to contracting ANY STD, now matter how it was contracted, but it is past time we begin to put pressure on the men in our community who refuse to get regularly tested.