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New research has found that one in three gay and bisexual male patients has avoided seeking help for sexual health problems due to fear of prejudice by medical staff – and one in four have experienced discrimination.
27% of gay patients surveyed have experienced discrimination from their local health services, and are twice as likely as staight men to feel judged when they’re there.
Almost half of gay men in the survey by online doctors Zava also report difficulty accessing local services, including for PrEP – leading to HIV scares.
The result is that one in three gay and bi men have left an STI symptom unchecked, or delayed seeking medical help, for 12 weeks – leaving potential symptoms to linger for a month longer than their straight counterparts.
Almost half of gay men report that there aren’t enough services locally, it’s hard to get appointments and waiting lists are too long.
This is also the case when it comes to accessing preventative treatment, such as PrEP. Nearly one in four clinics offering PrEP on NHS England’s Impact trial are currently closed to gay and bisexual men.
This has led one in five gay men (20%) to say they can’t get a place on the trial, instead resorting to buying PrEP from ‘dodgy-looking’ online sites overseas.
One in eight (13%) admit that they’ve had an HIV scare while waiting for the drug PrEP.
The research also found access issues around primary care, sexual health and PrEP services. To table this gap, Zava has now launched a complete PrEP therapy service to help.
Zava offers full-scale home testing and treatment services, and recently launched its complete PrEP therapy service. The service allows patients to safely access the drug without a face-to-face appointment with a doctor.
The service includes follow-ups from a GMC-registered doctor based in London to ensure patients keep up to date with testing and reorders of their medication, and can access all the support they might need.
Dr Babak Ashrafi, GP and PrEP service lead said: ‘It’s worrying to see that gay patients are facing issues accessing medical help from their local services. When it comes to health and particularly our sexual health, being able to access support sooner rather than later is really important.
‘We think that accessing medical services should never be a struggle. That’s why we provide discreet, confidential and most importantly judgement-free services to make sure that our patients can access the help they need, when and where they need it. And their newest service provides PrEP at competitive prices without any of the reported access or discrimination issues, means that more people than ever can be proactive with their sexual health.’
Zava can offer PrEP to high-risk patients who have never taken it before, or those already taking PrEP. Prices start but £49.99 and advice is free.
Patients answer a series of eligibility questions and are given information about what tests are required, and access to those tests if they’d like to do them at home.