There are now more resources than ever before to help
gay and bisexual men maintain their sexual health: new sources of information, new tests (like accurate tests for rectal and oral gonorrhea), free and low-cost
clinics, easy ways to
tell your partners to get checked, and free vaccines for
Hepatitis A and B.
L.A. County gay and bisexual men, however, continue to
bear a substantial burden of HIV and STD infections.
Nearly 80% of people living with HIV in LA County are
gay and bisexual men. Bacterial (curable) STDs, like
Chlamydia and Gonorrhea, are very common among
gay and bisexual men. And syphilis, an STD that had virtually disappeared among gay and bisexual men in the 1990ís, has increased more than 365% since 2001, and is still on the rise. So it
is important to stay on top of the latest sexual health
information and make sure you are getting regular
testing and treatment, if necessary.
If youíre having sex with more than one person (or that person is having sex with other people
besides you), get regular check-ups for HIV and STDs Ė every 6 months. If you think you have
HIV or an STD or find out you had sex with someone who does, get tested and treated
And if you find out that you have HIV or an STD, let your sex
partner(s) know. That way, they can get treated as well, and it also helps stop
the spread of that STD around the community (where it could come back to you
STDs and HIV-Positive Men
If you have
STDs can take longer to treat, and can be more likely to lead to serious complications (like
Neurosyphilis). These complications can also be more severe, and progress more rapidly. See a health provider on a regular basis, and ask about routine testing for STDs (including
Syphilis) every three months, or else with your periodic exam and blood work. Also, if you get an STD, itís important to get treated quickly.
If you get Syphilis, you will not only need to get
treated right away, but you will need to have a follow-up test to ensure you have been cured of your infection.
Tips for Gay and Bisexual Men to Stay Sexually Healthy
Know your STDs. Unlike HIV, many STDs can be easily transmitted through oral sex. If you donít use a condom for oral sex (and surveys suggest that most
gay and bisexual men donít), be aware that you are still at risk for syphilis, gonorrhea, herpes, and other STDs.
Know the HIV-STD connection. If you're HIV-negative and have an STD like
Syphilis or Gonorrhea, you are two to five times more likely to become HIV infected if you have unprotected sex with an HIV-positive partner. If youíre positive and have an STD, itís easier for you to transmit HIV to a negative partner.
If you have more than one partner, get HIV/STD check-ups every 6 months.
STDs often cause no symptoms at first, but can cause serious problems later.
There are dozens of gay-friendly clinics in the L.A. area where you can get free
or low-cost testing. You can find a list of clinics here.
The CDC and
ReallyCheckYourself.org have a feature which allows you to find a clinic near
you using your zip code.
If you havenít had Hepatitis A or B before, get vaccinated!
Hepatitis A and B (Hep A and Hep B) are serious diseases that can cause
illness for weeks or months. Hepatitis B can also cause lifelong infection,
cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver, liver cancer, liver failure, and death. Free
vaccine is available. If you previously started the vaccine series but did
not complete it, itís never too late to get the rest of your shots, and you do
NOT need to start the series over. Free vaccine is available --
click here for resources in LA County or call the
STD hotline 1-800-758-0880.
Talk to your partner. Not talking about STDs, or about HIV status, doesnít make them go away. Tell your partner your HIV status, and your expectations, and ask about his. Be clear about the kind of sex youíre willing to have, and the kind of protection you insist on. Itís your body.
This website has tips for talking to your
partners if you need them.
Use condoms for anal sex, top or bottom.
STDs, including HIV, are spread easily through anal sex, whether you are on top
or on bottom.
Condoms are still your best protection against STDs. There are more condom choices now than ever before -- familiarize yourself with what you like. Use plenty of lube (water-based lube only for latex condoms), which can reduce any chance the condom will break or tear.
The STD Program also offers free condoms for
individuals by mail.
Fewer sex partners mean less risk. Going to sex clubs or circuit parties, or using the internet, makes it easy to have a lot of partners in a short time period Ė but also increases your chance of getting an STD.
If you have multiple partners, it's even more important that you make sure to
get tested for STDs every 6 months.
Notice when you take risks. People sometimes have riskier sex in certain situations, like when theyíre on a trip, or under stress. But HIV and STD risks donít go away in these situations. If you see yourself taking risks you later regret, learn when this happens and ask yourself how you might break the pattern. And keep condoms with you, because youíre more likely to use them if you do.
Know your body. When STDs do cause symptoms, they are not always obviously related to sex. Syphilis, for example, can cause rashes on the palms of the hands, the chest, and other places. These rashes will go away on their own, but the infection will still be there. So if you notice unusual rashes, bumps, lumps, discharges, sores, or pain, donít just wait for them to go away Ė go get them checked out!
If you or your partner have Herpes, learn about suppressive therapy.
Daily medication can reduce the number herpes outbreaks. It can also reduce the amount of herpes virus that is shed through the skin between outbreaks, which may in turn reduce the chance of transmitting herpes to sex partners.
ASHASTD for more information, or talk to your doctor to see if this therapy is right for your situation.
Using crystal meth, other drugs, and alcohol can increase your STD and HIV risk. Meth and other drugs increase your risk for STDs when they increase the number of partners you have or
increase your risky behavior. Using meth in ďparty and playĒ (PNP) situations can further increase your risk, because prolonged sex can lead to genital abrasions and condom breakage. If you use drugs, having condoms available and ready increases your chances of using them while under the influence. If your drug or alcohol use is out of control, call 1-800-564-6600 to find treatment and recovery resources near you.
PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis): If you're HIV-negative but have been exposed to HIV, you may be eligible for medication to lower your chances of getting HIV. However, it has to be given within 72 hours of exposure, and this option may not be right for everyone.
If you think you may have been exposed to HIV, talk to your health care provider about it
immediately or click here.
General STD Information
Los Angeles County STD Hotline:1-800-758-0880 (toll free):
Offers STD information and referrals to free and low-cost testing in L.A. County
Free condoms by mail (L.A. County residents only).
Note: The STD Hotline is available 24 hours/day, 7
days a week via an automated system for clinics and
to leave a message for condoms. If you want to speak
to a health educator, please call Monday-Friday
California AIDS Hotline: 800-367-AIDS. Mon Ė Fri, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (until 9 p.m. Tuesdays). TDD: 888-225-AIDS.
CDC INFO: 800-232-4636. STD and HIV information (listen to prompts) - 24 hrs.
AIDS/HIV Nightline: 800-273-AIDS (2437). Mon -
Sun / 5 p.m. to 5 a.m. Provides emotional support,
information and referrals to people with concerns
about HIV during the night when other agencies are
Drug Treatment and recovery resources in L.A.
County: contact 1-800-564-6600 to be referred to
resources near you.
STD Testing Resources with Special Services for Gay and Bisexual Men
Public Health and other
non-profit organizations provide care to
people living with HIV, as well as prevention
and advocacy services to prevent HIV and other
Check Yourself campaign website for men who have sex with men: Syphilis-focused
Web site has L.A. County STD testing locator by ZIP code.
Hepatitis B Foundation: Provides educational information about hepatitis B transmission, symptoms, diagnosis, prevention, management, new treatments, and clinical trials.
Hepatitis Foundation International: Provides educational information about hepatitis including transmission, symptoms, vaccination, treatment, and management of chronic infections.
Free and low cost hepatitis A and B vaccination
in L.A. County