About STIs and Gay Men

Key points

  • Men who have sex with men (MSM) are more likely to get sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
  • Most STIs have no signs or symptoms.
  • The only way to know your STI status is to get tested.
Closeup of men holding hands


A sexually transmitted infection (STI) is a virus, bacteria, fungus, or parasite people can get through sexual contact. Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) develop as a result of an STI. STD implies that the infection has led to some symptom of disease.

Anyone who has sex can get an STI. However, sexually active gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (MSM) are at greater risk. MSM have higher rates of syphilis and make up more than half of all new HIV infections.

Signs and symptoms

Most STIs have no signs or symptoms. You or your partner could be positive and not know it. The only way to know your status is to get tested.

Risk factors

Sexually active gay, bisexual, and men who have sex with men (MSM) are at greater risk for getting a STI.

How it spreads

STIs are spread through sexual contact with someone who has an STI. Sexual contact includes oral, anal/vaginal sex, and genital skin-to-skin contact.


The only way to not get an STI is to not have sex. However, you can reduce your risk by:

  • Learning. Understand how STIs spread. Know your partner(s) and talk about getting tested.
  • Vaccinating. CDC recommends vaccinations for hepatitis A and B, and the human papillomavirus (HPV). The hepatitis A vaccine is usually given at birth. The HPV vaccine is recommended for men up to age 26.
  • Testing. Regular STI testing protects you and your partner(s) from infections.
  • Being consistent. Use a condom correctly every time you have sex.
  • Staying aware. Alcohol/recreational drugs can lower inhibitions, leading to risky behavior, such as having sex without a condom.

Testing and diagnosis

Most STIs have no outward signs or symptoms. Consequently, CDC recommends sexually active gay and bisexual men get tested for:

  • HIV at least once a year
  • Syphilis
  • Hepatitis B
  • Hepatitis C based on risk factors
  • Chlamydia and gonorrhea of the rectum if you've had anal sex in the past year
  • Gonorrhea of the throat if you've performed oral sex in the past year

Treatment and recovery

Many STIs can be easily diagnosed and treated. If you or your partner have an STI, both of you need treatment at the same time.