Start the conversation: Gay/Bisexual men

By : Jeremy Williams
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How often should you see your primary care physician? What health screenings, evaluations and/or vaccinations should you have? Should you be on any medications? Don’t ask us! We aren’t real doctors, we only occasionally play one on TV.

Just like every fingerprint, snowflake and social media opinion; each person’s individual health concerns are varied and different. That’s why the only effective healthy game plan for you is one that is constructed between you and your doctor.

Below are health issues and concerns that, based on CDC and GLMA recommendations, are good questions to start off the conversation with your healthcare team. We have arranged it so gay and bisexual men can cut out this section and take it with them to their next doctor’s appointment.

Health screenings:

If you smoke, speak with your doctor about smoking cessation programs and/or medications. Also, ask about a lung screening to check for adverse effects from smoking, even if you are a former smoker. Tobacco-related health problems can include lung disease, heart disease, high blood pressure and a whole host of other serious problems.

Cholesterol screenings are recommended every five years starting at age 20.

If your blood pressure is normal (less than 120/80), have it checked at least every two years – or more frequently if recommended by your doctor or if you have a family history of high blood pressure. Smoking, frequent alcohol use and/or being overweight can cause high blood pressure.

Cancer screenings:

Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)—which cause anal and genital warts—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. The HPV vaccine is available for men up to age 26.

Prostate, testicular and colon cancer screenings for gay and bisexual men follow the general population guidelines and risk is based on age and family history. Discuss with your healthcare provider your personal need for these screenings. Gay and bisexual men between the ages of 17-40 should conduct monthly testicular cancer self-examinations.

Sexual health tests:

Depending on your sexual habits, being tested for HIV is recommended every 3-6 months, but at a minimum at least once a year. Talk with your health care provider about whether PrEP or PEP are appropriate for you based on your HIV status and sexual practices.

Immunization for Hepatitis A Virus and Hepatitis B Virus is recommended for all men who have sex with men. There is no vaccine for Hepatitis C Virus. Ask your doctor about having a blood test done to test you for Hepatitis C. If you have Hepatitis C there are new, more effective treatments for that infection.

Screenings for herpes, syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia should be conducted at least once a year. It is recommended, along with blood and urine tests, that an oral swab be conducted for those who perform oral sex and a rectal swab be conducted for those who receive anal sex to test for gonorrhea and chlamydia infections that may not show up in blood and/or urine.

This general information is not intended to diagnose any medical condition or replace your healthcare professional. The lists do not include all health topics to be discussed with your healthcare provider, simply tips to begin the conversation. Consult your physician for further information.

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