Resources for Gay and Bisexual Men
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 STD infections. 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 1990’s, has increased more than 365% since 2001, and is still on the rise. So it pays to stay on top of the latest STD information by checking this site (or visiting the other links on this page).
If you’re having sex with more than one person (or that person is having sex with other people than you), get regular check-ups for STDs – every 6 months. If you think you have an STD or find out you had sex with someone who has an STD, get checked and treated right away.
And if you find out that you have an STD, let your sex partners 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 later!). If you don’t want to talk to your partner directly, you can send him an e-card (anonymously if you wish) at www.inSPOTLA.org. inSPOTLA also has information about other ways to tell your partners, such as assistance from local agencies or from the STD Program.
STDs and HIV-Positive Men
If you have HIV, 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, it’s 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 don’t use a condom for oral sex (and surveys suggest that most gay and bisexual men don’t), 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 you’re positive and have an STD, it’s easier for you to transmit HIV to a negative partner.
If you have more than one partner, get a regular STD check-up 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 STD testing. This Web site has a list of clinics and ReallyCheckYourself.org has a feature which allows you to find a clinic near you using your zip code.
If you haven’t had Hepatitis A or B vaccine, 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. If you previously started the vaccine series but did not complete it, it’s never too late to get the rest of your shots, and you do NOT need to start the series over. click here for vaccine resources in LA County
Talk to your partner. Not talking about STDs, or about HIV status, doesn’t make them go away. Tell your partner your HIV status, and your expectations, and ask about his. Be clear about the kind of sex you’re willing to have, and the kind of protection you insist on. It’s your body. This Web site 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 – 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 they’re on a trip, or under stress. But HIV and STD risks don’t 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 you’re 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, don’t just wait for them to go away – 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. Visit 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 “party and play” (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.
Links and Resources
General STD Information
- American Social Health Association: General STD information and resources, with an emphasis on herpes and HPV), also has lots of condom information.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: General STD information.
- STD Checkup: California Department of Public Health Web site with STD information specifically geared for men who have sex with men.
- Los Angeles County STD Hotline:1-800-758-0880 (toll free):
Offers STD information and eferrals to free and low-cost testing in LA County
Free condoms by mail (LA 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 9am-5pm.
- California AIDS Hotline: 800-367-AIDS. Mon – 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 closed.
- 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
- AIDS Healthcare Foundation: A private non-profit organization providing care to people who are HIV+, as well as prevention and advocacy services to prevent HIV and other STD transmission. AHF operates the Men’s Wellness Center and other STD testing programs.
- AltaMed Health Services: Provides innovative healthcare and human services for under-served communities in the Los Angeles area; operates several medical clinics, and offers HIV/AIDS services, youth services, and drug treatment programs.
- Bienestar: A community-based AIDS service organization with numerous sites serving Latino communities throughout Southern California; STD testing locations.
- 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.
- InSPOTLA: Tell your sex partners about an STD or HIV through Internet ecards (anonymously if desired): Also has STD testing locator and additional resource links.
- L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center: The L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center provides a broad array of services for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community, including HIV and STD testing.
- 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 LA County
- CDC fact sheet on the HIV-STD connection.
- HIV L.A. Resource Directory: HIVLA.org is a quick, easy way to locate services available in Los Angeles County for people with HIV/AIDS. HIV L.A. is organized by category of service and by geographic region and contains over 1,300 listings.
- CDC fact sheet on men who have sex with men and syphilis.
- Check Yourself campaign Web site: Syphilis information and testing in L.A. County.
For information on free and low cost STD testing and treatment services in Los Angeles County, call the STD Hotline at 1-800-758-0880 or visit our STD Testing & Services section.