Gay and Bisexual Men's Health
Sexually Transmitted Diseases
Key STD Resources
- CDC's STD Web site
- STD MMWRs
- Syphilis Resources
- HPV Resources
Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) have been increasing among gay and bisexual men, with recent increases in syphilis being documented across the country. In 2012, men who have sex with men (MSM) accounted for 75% of primary and secondary syphilis cases in the United States. MSM often are diagnosed with other STDs, including chlamydia and gonorrhea infections.
HPV (Human Papillomavirus), the most common STD in the United States, is also a concern for MSM. Some types of HPV can cause genital and anal warts and some can lead to the development of anal and oral cancer. Men who have sex with men are 17 times more likely to develop anal cancer than heterosexual men. Men who are HIV-positive are even more likely than those who are uninfected to develop anal cancer.
How are STDs spread?
- STDs are spread through sexual contact with someone who has an STD. Sexual contact includes oral, anal, and vaginal sex, as well as genital skin-to-skin contact.
- Some STDs—like HIV, chlamydia and gonorrhea—are spread through sexual fluids, like semen. Other STDs, including HIV and hepatitis B, are also spread through blood. Genital herpes, syphilis, and human papillomavirus (HPV) are most often spread through genital skin-to-skin contact.
What are the signs and symptoms of STDs?
- Most STDs have no signs or symptoms, so you (or your partner) could be infected and not know it.
- The only way to know your STD status is to get tested (you can search for a clinic here).
- Having an STD such as herpes makes it easier to get HIV, so it’s important to get tested to protect your health and the health of your partner
When should I be tested?
All gay and bisexual men should be tested at least annually for common STDs. The only way to know your STD status is to get tested (you can search for a testing site). Having an STD (like gonorrhea) makes it easier to get HIV, so it's important to get tested to protect your health and the health of your partner. CDC recommends sexually active gay and bisexual men test for:
- Hepatitis B;
- Hepatitis C among gay men born from 1945 to 1965 or with risk behaviors;
- Chlamydia and gonorrhea of the rectum if you’ve had receptive anal sex, or been a “bottom” in the past year;
- Chlamydia and gonorrhea of the penis (urethra) if you have had insertive anal or oral sex in the past year;
- Gonorrhea of the throat if you’ve performed oral sex (i.e., your mouth on your partner’s penis, vagina, or anus) in the past year;
- And sometimes your health care provider may suggest a herpes blood test.
Gay and bisexual men who have multiple or anonymous partners should be screened more frequently for STDs (i.e., at 3-to-6 month intervals). Your healthcare provider can offer you the best care if you discuss your sexual history openly. You should have a provider you are comfortable with. CDC's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Health Services page will help you find health services that are gay-friendly.
How can I prevent STDs?
For anyone, choosing to be sexually active means you are at risk for STDs. However, there are many things you can do to protect your health. You can learn about how STDs are spread and how you can reduce your risk of getting infected.
Get Vaccinated: Gay, bisexual and other MSM are at greater risk for hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and the human papillomavirus (HPV). For this reason, CDC recommends that you be vaccinated against hepatitis A and hepatitis B. The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine is also recommended for men up to age 26.
Be Safer: Getting tested regularly and getting vaccinated are both important, but there are other things you can do to reduce your risk for STDs.
- Get to know someone before having sex with them and talk honestly about STDs and getting tested—before you have sex.
- Use a condom correctly and use one every time you have sex.
- Think twice about mixing alcohol and/or recreational drugs with sex. They can reduce your ability to make good decisions and can lead to risky behavior—like having sex without a condom.
- Limit your number of partners. You can lower your risk for STDs if you only have sex with one person who only has sex with you.
Know Your Status: If you know your STD status, you can take steps to protect yourself and your partners.
Can STDs Be Treated?
Some STDs (like gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis) can be cured with medication. If you are ever treated for an STD, be sure to finish all of your medicine, even if you feel better. Your partner should be tested and treated, too. It is important to remember that you are at risk for the same or a new STD every time you have unprotected sex (not using a condom) and/or have sex with someone who has an STD.
Other STDs like herpes and HIV cannot be cured, but medicines can be prescribed to manage symptoms.