Information for Men who have sex with Men
Risk of catching a sexually transmitted infection (STI)
Men who have sex with men are at a greater risk of acquiring a sexually transmitted infection. There are two main reasons for this. Firstly, the lining of the anus and rectum is delicate and prone to becoming damaged. If this is then exposed to bacteria or viruses that cause STI’s, it is more likely that the person will go on to develop an infection.
Secondly, with the increased uptake in the use of Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), some men who previously used condoms to protect themselves against HIV may now be using them less, putting themselves at higher risk of catching other STI’s. (PrEP only protects against HIV transmission).
In West Sussex we have seen an increase in the number of Syphilis and Gonorrhoea diagnoses in men who have sex with men over the last couple of years.
Click here for more info about PrEP
Reducing your risk of catching an STI or HIV
- We recommend using a condom for oral and anal sex
- There is a wide range of varieties and sizes including latex free condoms
- Condoms are available free to all from any of our sexual health clinics and also through our C-card scheme for people under the age of 25
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Lubrication and lubes
- Most condoms come ready lubricated to make them easier to use however we recommend the use of additional lubes for anal sex.
- Any lubricant can be used with polyurethane condoms.
- However, if you’re using a latex or polyisoprene condom you should never use oil-based products – such as body oils, creams, lotions or petroleum jelly – as a lubricant. This is because they can cause damage and make the condom more likely to split.
- You can check the condom packaging to find out whether a condom is made from latex, polyurethane or polyisoprene.
- You can get free lubes from any of our clinics
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Regular STI testing
- We recommend testing every 3 months if you are having frequent partner changes
Reducing the number of partners you have
- We recommend testing before you have sex with someone new and suggest that they also get tested
- If you have ongoing sex with more than one partner, make sure you and your sexual partners are testing every three months
Talking about sexual health
- Be open about your sexual health and be curious about the sexual health of the people you are thinking about meeting for sex
- Ask your partners if they check regularly and when they most recently tested
- Don’t be afraid to ask if they know their HIV status
- HIV positive men with undetectable viral loads won’t pass on HIV
- It’s risky to have condomless anal sex with men who don’t know their HIV status, or haven’t tested recently
- Condomless sex increases your risks for all STIs
- All STI’s, apart from HIV, can be transmitted through oral sex
Immunisation / Vaccination
- We recommend vaccination against Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B and Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)
- These are available free from your local sexual health clinic. The HPV vaccine is only available to men who are 45 or under
Reducing alcohol and drug use
- Excess alcohol and drugs can affect your decisions and may lead to taking more risks
- If you inject / have injected drugs you are at a higher risk of acquiring hepatitis C as well as Hepatitis B, HIV and syphilis
- Using drugs as part of sex, in particular methadrone, GHB and crystal methamphetamine (known as Chemsex) not only increases your risk of STI’s but can also cause dependency, psychological problems and other sexual issues such as erectile dysfunction. For more information on Chemsex, how to play more safely and support available click here
Click here for more information about Hepatitis C
HIV Post Exposure Prophylaxis & Pre Exposure Prophylaxis
While all of the above measures will reduce the risk of acquiring HIV, there are some additional prevention measures to be aware of:
Post Exposure Prophylaxis following sexual exposure (PEPSE)
- PEPSE is medication that you can take for 28 days to reduce your risk of HIV transmission following a high risk exposure such as unprotected anal sex
- You may be eligible for PEPSE if you have had unprotected sex with someone who’s HIV status you do not know, or someone who is known to be HIV positive but not fully suppressed (undetectable) on treatment, or if you have shared injecting equipment
- In order for it to work properly PEPSE should be started as soon as possible after sex, and definitely within 72 hours
- If you think you are at risk you should not delay seeking advice ASAP
- PEPSE is available through our clinics or through our Accident & Emergency departments outside of our normal working hours
Pre Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP)
What is PrEP?
PrEP (HIV Pre-exposure Prophylaxis) is a medicine for HIV negative people, is taken before sex, so it is pre-exposure. Prophylaxis means to prevent infection – in this case HIV. It can reduce the risk of acquiring HIV when taken as instructed.
PrEP is made up of two drugs, Tenofovir and Emtricitabine. These drugs are known as antiretroviral medicines and have been used as part of HIV treatment for many years. You may know this medicine by its brand name, Truvada, however there are generic forms of the drug with the same active ingredients.
Who would benefit from PrEP?
You could benefit from PrEP if you are considered to be at high risk of HIV. PrEP can be used as a way to reduce your risk of HIV if you are HIV negative and don’t always use condoms.
PrEP is not a vaccine and only provides protection from HIV so long as you continue to take it as prescribed. It is important to remember that PrEP will not protect you from acquiring other STIs. This is an important advantage of using condoms.
PrEP is available and free in our clinics for people who are at risk of acquiring HIV through sexual exposure. This is in line with the PrEP rollout by Public Health England that was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We are running appointments only clinics, so please check the list below then call us if you meet one or more of the conditions on 01903 285199
Being at risk of acquiring HIV means that you:
- Are a man who has sex with men and do not always use condoms for sex or intend not to use condoms for anal sex
- Have recently needed post exposure prophylaxis for HIV following sexual exposure
- Had recent rectal sexually transmitted infection or syphilis.
- Have a sexual partner who is HIV positive and not established on treatment or not taking their medication regularly
- Have sex with people from countries with high incidence of HIV and do not always use condoms
Our services for Men who have sex with Men
- Free condoms, lubes and advice
- STI testing and treatment
- Hepatitis A vaccination
- Hepatitis B vaccination
- HPV vaccination (for men aged 15-45)
- Post exposure prophylaxis for HIV (PEPSE)
- Pre Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP)
- Advice and support around risk reduction including 1 to 1 intervention
- Referrals for support around ChemSex and substance misuse
If you specifically wish to discuss risk reduction, referral for chemsex support or starting PrEP we recommend you make an appointment with one of our Health Advisors.
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