Hey there Guys,
I was recently sent an interesting question from a reader about gay men’s health checks…
As an older (well, not that old) gay man who has had a fairly long and complicated journey towards self-acceptance and becoming sexually active, beyond the basic considerations around safe sex (i.e. condoms), what should I be considering (like immunisation, screening, etc.) around managing my sexual health, and managing other health issues where gay men are at increased risk?
Really quite an interesting question. I sometimes think we forget that gay men can suffer with all sorts of health issues, not just those based around HIV. Today I thought it would be good to give an overview of some of the health issues gay men may be at higher risk for as well as some ways to reduce or even avoid those risks.
By the very nature of our sexual expression, gay men are at a higher risk for exposure to diseases such as Hepatitis A and B and in some cases Hepatitis C. Hepatitis A is spread from oral contact with faeces with practices like rimming potential ways of spread. Hepatitis B and C can be spread by sexual contact, blood contact and also sharing of toothbrushes and razors with people who are infected. While there is not vaccination available for Hepatitis C there are very good vaccinations for both Hepatitis A and B. I highly recommend all gay men consider these vaccinations.
Other vaccinations worth considering are the HPV vaccine to help prevent genital warts as well as oral and anal cancer. The best time to consider this vaccine is before you have become sexually active however the there are recommendations that all gay men up to the age of 26 should consider the vaccination. While it may be useful past this age there are concerns that it may not be as effective. Click here for my full article on the HPV virus.
Finally don’t forget to discuss tetanus boosters and if you are working with or have close contact with children you may want to consider the tetanus shot that also covers whooping cough.
Regular sexual health check-ups
It is recommended that gay men have a sexual health check-up at least once a year.
If you have had more then 10 sexual partners in a year, if you have gone to a sex club or picked up off the internet it is recommended getting a check up every 6 months or earlier if you have had a lot of sex.
Health issues that affect all men
Gay or straight all men face similar medical issues as they age. This includes heart disease, prostate problems, risk of cancers and other diseases as we get older. For this reason I recommend getting a good health check up as you enter your 40’s.
Currently the Australian government has a program for men aged between 45 and 49 to check for health risks like diabetes, cancers, obesity, depression, heart disease and other factors. This is a fantastic initiative and I highly recommend talking to your doctor if you are between the age of 45 and 49. This is a great opportunity for a top to tail health checkup.
Lifestyle changes that can improve health
On a final note I just wanted to mention some lifestyle changes that can help improve health.
Quitting smoking can help improve the health of your heart and lungs as well as reduce the chance of complications if you have diabetes or other medical conditions. I understand that quitting smoking is not easy however there are some great programs and medications that can help make quitting smoking much easier. Have a chat with your doctor if you are considering giving up.
Many of the social aspects of gay life are based around bars and alcohol which can encourage drinking, sometimes to excess. Alcohol in excess can not only harm the physical body but can make depression worse, be associated with violence and also impaired judgement at times. Currently the recommendation for safe drinking is:
- For healthy men and women, drinking no more than two standard drinks on any day reduces your risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury over a lifetime.
- Drinking no more than four standard drinks on a single occasion reduces the risk of alcohol-related injury arising from that occasion.
Regular exercise is great for your health, your mood and is a great chance to socialise with friends. Five 30 minute sessions per week is a great goal and will certainly help keep your heart, lungs and body healthy.
Finally eating 2 pieces of fruit and 4-5 serves of vegetables each day is a fantastic basis for a healthy diet. Have you been getting your fruit and veg?
Guys I hope that this post serves as a bit of an introduction to some aspects of health not only for gay men but also all men in general. Of course I am more then happy to expand on any of the points you wish.
Feel free to leave your comments or thoughts in the comments below.
Yours in good health.
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Title Photo Cred: CharlesFred