National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day drives home critical need for HIV testing
It may seem like just another autumn day…but today is National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, a timely reminder of the serious effect of human immunodeficiency virus infection (HIV) on men who have sex with men (MSM).
In other words, September 27 is a day to focus on sexual health as a top priority for any man that engages is same-sex intercourse. Of course, gay and bisexual men are not the only people affected by STDs…but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that they are 40 times more likely to be exposed to HIV and syphilis than heterosexual men.
Why such a huge disparity? A recent study in Wisconsin sheds some light on the issues…
Interviews with 271 gay and bisexual men revealed that only about 30% of them tell their doctors about their same-sex lifestyles. Further, among those who were honest about their lifestyles, their doctors advised them to get tested for HIV only 59% of the time. For the 70% of men who did not disclose their sexual behaviors to their doctors, they were even less likely to get a doctor recommendation for HIV testing.
Bottom line: many people are too intimidated to talk about sex and STD testing with their doctors. What’s to be done about it?
Further, California Senate Bill 747 proposes that all licensed healthcare professionals in the state complete a course tailored to LGBT health practices (the course was developed by the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association). Opponents of the bill claim there is sufficient education and advocacy around LGBT health issues…but remember the CDC stat and the Wisconsin study? Those numbers tell a different story.
The need for Senate Bill 747 is clear. We need more LGBT-focused education in medical schools, and older healthcare professionals are in need of LGBT health training that they may have missed in their college and medical school days. These doctors, especially, are less likely to consider the implications of their gay and bisexual male patients engaging in same-sex intercourse.
In the meantime, regardless of the bill or whether you live in California, remember that it’s crucial for anyone who is sexually active to be honest with their doctor. Your doctor can’t help you if you don’t first disclose your sexual behaviors. Your sexual health ⎼ and your overall health ⎼ starts with you.