April is STD awareness month: Good health means getting tested

If you are sexually active, getting tested for STDs is one of the most important things you can do to protect your health. Make sure you have an open and honest conversation about your sexual history and STD testing with your doctor and ask whether you should be tested for STDs. If you are not comfortable talking with your regular health care provider about STDs, there are many clinics that provide confidential and free or low-cost testing.

Below is a brief overview of STD testing recommendations. STD screening information for healthcare providers can be found here.

  • All adults and adolescents from ages 13 to 64 should be tested at least once for HIV.
  • All sexually active women younger than 25 years should be tested for gonorrhea and chlamydia every year. Women 25 years and older with risk factors such as new or multiple sex partners or a sex partner who has an STD should also be tested for gonorrhea and chlamydia every year.
  • All pregnant women should be tested for syphilis, HIV, and hepatitis B starting early in pregnancy. At-risk pregnant women should also be tested for chlamydia and gonorrhea starting early in pregnancy. Testing should be repeated as needed to protect the health of mothers and their infants.
  • All sexually active gay and bisexual men should be tested at least once a year for syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea. Those who have multiple or anonymous partners should be tested more frequently for STDs (i.e., at 3- to 6-month intervals).
  • Sexually active gay and bisexual men may benefit from more frequent HIV testing (e.g., every 3 to 6 months).
  • Anyone who has unsafe sex or shares injection drug equipment should get tested for HIV at least once a year.

You can quickly find a place to be tested for STDs by entering your zip code at gettested.cdc.gov.

Black and African American LGBTQ Youth Report

From the Human Rights Campaign

In 2017, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation partnered with researchers at the University of Connecticut to conduct a groundbreaking survey of over 12,000 LGBTQ youth and capture their experiences in their families, schools, social circles and communities. More than 1,600 Black and African American LGBTQ youth responded to the survey.

This resource presents data collected from these youth, shedding light on their challenges and triumphs encountered while navigating multiple, intersecting identities. This report utilizes the full sample (any respondent who answered more than 10 percent of the survey) and provides more detail than is captured in the 2018 Youth Report.

Find out more.

When it comes to prostate cancer, ‘gay men are erased,’ patients say

From NBC News

Prostate cancer is the most prevalent invasive cancer among men, affecting nearly one in eight at some point in their lives, according to the Centers for Disease Control. But the unique challenges facing gay and bisexual men with prostate cancer have largely gone unaddressed.

Men who have sex with men (MSM) are less likely to get regular prostate cancer screenings, and those who are diagnosed are less likely to have familial and social support, according to research cited by the National Institutes of Health. And if their health care provider is not culturally competent, gay and bisexual men are much less likely to understand how treatment will impact their quality of life.

“Those in large metropolitan areas may have the option of searching for an LGBT-welcoming provider, but most Americans don’t have a choice about who treats them.”

“Many LGBT people enter their cancer treatment wary,” Liz Margolies of the National LGBT Cancer Network told NBC News. “Those in large metropolitan areas may have the option of searching for an LGBT-welcoming provider, but most Americans don’t have a choice about who treats them.”

As a result, Margolies added, many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender patients go back in the closet when they begin cancer treatment. Even if they don’t, providers often don’t ask about patients’ sexual behavior or identity, forcing them to bring the subject up themselves — sometimes again and again with each new specialist.

Read the full article.

Gay teens at least twice as likely to use illegal drugs, study suggests

From NBC News online

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and questioning (LGBQ) teens are at least twice as likely as their heterosexual peers to use illegal drugs like cocaine, ecstasy, heroin and methamphetamines, a U.S. study suggests. Previous research suggests that stressors related to being closeted or coming out and being rejected by family or friends could contribute to an increased risk of substance use among sexual minority teens, senior study author John Ayers of San Diego State University in California said.

For the new study, researchers looked at data from roughly 14,703 high school students who had been surveyed about their lifetime and prior-month use of 15 different substances, including illegal drugs as well as tobacco, alcohol and prescription drugs that weren’t given to them by a physician.

LGBQ youth were more than three times more likely to try heroin or methamphetamines at least once, and more than twice as likely to try ecstasy or cocaine, the study also found.

Stressors faced by LGBQ teens, such as stigma and isolation, “may make drugs foolishly appear attractive as a coping mechanism,” Ayers said by email. “Even experimentation with these harder drugs can derail a teen’s future,” he said.

The vast majority of teens didn’t use illegal drugs, regardless of sexual orientation, researchers report in the American Journal of Public Health.

Read the full article on NBC News.

Why STDs are on the rise in America

From the Economist online

Much of the increase in STDs has come from gay and bisexual men. Although a relatively small share of the population, they accounted for 81% of male syphilis cases in 2016, according to the Centres for Disease Control. As with heterosexuals, this seems to be because sex is now seen as less risky. That is due to the advent of PrEP, a prophylactic drug cocktail which gay men can take to nearly inoculate themselves from HIV. The reduced chances of catching HIV—along with the fact that a positive diagnosis is no longer a death sentence—seems to encourage men to drop their guard. A recent study of gay and bisexual men, published in the Lancet, a medical journal, found that as more began taking PrEP, rates of consistent condom usage dropped from 46% to 31%. Recent studies have shown that uptake of PrEP is strongly associated with increased rates of STD infection.

All this shows that changing sexual mores, and a reduced fear of the risks of unprotected sex, seem to be at fault—especially since the problem is not just limited to America. England experienced a 20% increase in syphilis diagnoses in 2017 and a 22% increase in those of gonorrhoea. Other countries in western Europe have seen ever worse outbreaks, sometimes exceeding 50%. Dwindling public spending on STD prevention—which in America has fallen by 40% in real terms since 2003—is not helping matters. Yet the chief methods of prevention, abstinence and condoms, are tried and true. Should these options seem too chaste or chaffing, then prospective partners ought to get an STD test (especially since most infections can be cleared up with a simple course of antibiotics). Verified testing is vital since verbal assurances, especially on the cusp of a liaison, can be misleading.

Read the full article.

Gay or bi men who disclose sexual history may get better healthcare

From Reuters online

Young men who have sex with men (MSM) who disclose their sexual orientation or behavior to a health care provider are more likely to receive appropriate healthcare, new data suggest.

Dr. Elissa Meites of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and her colleagues studied 817 MSM, ages 18 to 26, who had seen a healthcare provider in the past year. Men who had disclosed were more than twice as likely as those who had not to have received the full panel of recommended screenings and vaccines, the researchers found.

The CDC and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommend that MSM be screened for HIV, syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia at least once a year, and immunized against hepatitis A and B and human papillomavirus (HPV), Meites and her colleagues note the journal Sexually Transmitted Diseases. Overall, 67 percent of the study participants had received all four recommended STI screenings, but that was true for only 51 percent of the MSM who had never disclosed. Nine percent overall had received all vaccinations, compared to six percent of those who hadn’t disclosed.

The pattern was similar when researchers looked to see how many participants received all seven recommended services. The rate was just seven percent for the overall study population, but it was even lower – at less than four percent – for the MSM who hadn’t disclosed.

Read the full article.

Here’s how to get good healthcare as a queer person

From Seventeen.com

Navigating the healthcare world as a queer person can be tricky, which is why HERE asked aspiring healthcare professionals who have *been there* to share their advice for how to make trips to the doc work best for you. A little about this duo: Mia is enrolled in an accelerated nursing program and Maggie is taking pre-requisites for a future degree in occupational therapy. And one thing that they agree on is that their roles as future providers will be heavily influenced by their experiences as queer patients. “Now in our early 20’s, we have grown up navigating doctors’ visits and other healthcare experiences that were not always LGBTQ+ friendly, if we even ‘outed’ ourselves to our doctors at all,” says Mia. “In reflecting on some of these experiences, we’ve realized how important and rewarding, albeit difficult, advocating for your own care can be.”

Here are their tips for getting proper healthcare as a queer person.