Doctors, what issues to address with gay men?
Health care comes in different forms for different people. Health professionals must be increasingly prepared to address all kinds of issues with those who consult them, especially with a population that faces such specific health risks as gay men.
The doctor’s willingness to talk about topics considered taboo can make all the difference for the user of the services to become involved in their own care. For this reason, here we present a list of nine topics that could be addressed in a consultation with a gay user. Not all of them are applicable to all people, as explained by the American doctor Robert J. Winn, who wrote an article about it, but it is important to know all the possibilities.
Topic 1: HIV and safer sex. Since, in the American continent, gay men and other men who have sex with men are one of the populations most affected by HIV, the ways to protect themselves from it (condoms, preventive treatment, use of lubricant) should always be put on top the office table.
Topic 2: Drug use. According to some studies, gay men have higher drug use than the general population. Some substances are used during sexual intercourse, which can lead to risky practices such as rough sex or sex without a condom. Talking about the risks but without judging can be a good strategy to start a detoxification process.
Topic 3: Depression and anxiety. The mental health of this group can be affected by the lack of acceptance of their sexual orientation. Gay teens and youth may be at high risk of suicide if they do not have enough support to cope.
Topic 4: Vaccine against hepatitis. Sex between men carries a high risk of transmission of the various viruses that cause hepatitis. For this reason, it is recommended that all gay men be vaccinated against type A and B hepatitis viruses, for which immunization does exist.
Topic 5: Sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Not only HIV, but also other sexual infections are common in gay men. Many of these infections can be effectively treated, so some screening tests may be suggested, along with always recommending safer sex with a condom.
Topic 6: Prostate, testicular and colon cancer. Like other men, gay men are exposed to these types of cancer. Once the user has approached the services, it is important to suggest the relevant tests to look for these conditions and thus be able to address them in a timely manner.
Item 7: Consumption of alcohol and tobacco. These two substances can cause well-known health problems, such as cirrhosis of the liver or lung cancer. It is important to detect the problem and try to reduce its consumption with an inclusive perspective, in case it has any relationship with the expression of sexual orientation.
Topic 8: Diet and exercise. For one thing, gay men are more likely to have body image issues than non-gay men. This can lead to eating disorders or excessive exercise, in addition to the consumption of dangerous substances used for physical activity. On the other hand, this population faces the same challenge of overweight and obesity that affects the rest of the population, so the issue of healthy eating and weight must always be present.
Topic 9: Anal papilloma. Within STIs, the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) deserves special mention, since it has been observed that some of its strains are direct causes of cancer. Gay men are at particular risk of developing anal cancer due to HPV transmission in that area, evidencing the need for regular screening.
Now you know, opening up the conversation and listening without making judgments can help keep gay men in optimal health, just like the rest of the population.
And remember that at AHF Latin America and the Caribbean we provide HIV services free of stigma and discrimination. If you want to take a free HIV test, locate our offices in your country or make your appointment by Whatsapp.