Playing It Safe. The Truth Behind Our Sexual Health

There’s nothing more stressful on your lunch break than having a middle aged woman, with latex up to her elbows, pulling back your foreskin and shoving a giant cotton bud down your penis until your eyes water, (all of them). But a lunch break is a great utilisation of time for something so many of us just can’t fit into our busy schedule.

Ok, ok, so getting tested isn’t always that daunting, but how many of us are regularly taking a visit to the clinic, and if we are, after finding out those all-important results, isn’t there something else that is getting forgotten about?

I hear so many of my gay friends flippantly passing off getting tested yet bragging about their latest bareback debauchery with risks simply the last thing on their minds. It seems that for many of us getting tested is a chore superseded by straightening our hair and knocking back a double Bacardi and coke, while indulging a drag queen doing a Madonna medley. But then even if we are tested, are we still responsible gays who can be honest with our sexual partners about the status of our health? According to a recent survey conducted by Stonewall, one in seven (13 per cent) are too ‘scared’ to have a test and one in eleven (nine per cent) said they are ‘too busy’. So perhaps we need to think more about the clinic.

Certainly these days we can say thank you to the likes of Channel 4 and BBC three for exposing us to the world of the Sexual Health Clinic and bringing it to the forefront of our screens. With shows such as The Sex Clinic and Unsafe Sex in the City we get an insight into the dangers of unprotected sex, multiple partners and the way people think about their sexual health. However, the people these shows focus on are not always the brightest tools in the box.

One guy who was being documented in Channels 4’s The Sex Clinic thought it was alright to be standing on national TV discussing his hepatitis C and HIV status, misinforming viewers that if you are on medication and your viral load is down so low, it’s OK not to tell people you’re HIV+ and sleep with them without contraception because they can’t contract it. No dear man, I’m afraid you are wrong. You are putting many people at risk by not telling the guy you are about to let slide unprotected into you, about your status. It’s just irresponsible.

So you are one of the good guys, getting tested regularly. Yet, just because you are taking those prescribed antibiotics to clear up your chlamydia, doesn’t mean it’s gone yet. You could still pass it on if you are not careful. You see, attitudes towards such conversations around our health are still slightly taboo between friends. No one wants to say that they have an STI, and it’s embarrassing to have to ask your previous partners if they have the constant itching down below, or the stinging bell end when urinating, without having to tell Saturday night’s trade too. I mean as long as we’re, as my Mum used to say, ‘getting your end away’ does it matter if we are only looking after the needs of number one?

Of course, despite those who would like to demonize the sex between two men, no sexually transmitted infection is exclusive to gay men. However, when watching these shows, it’s always the gays totting up the total of sexual partners and coming in higher than any hetero. If such shows are to believed, it appears that for the most part, we are sexual whores, craving cock at any given moment, or so it would seem from some of the guys featured.

So why do some of us have such little respect for the guys we sleep with? The same survey by Stonewall also discovered that more than four in five (83 per cent) gay and bisexual men who have never been tested said ‘I don’t think I’m at risk’. I’m sure, like myself many of us have been in the situation where you go back to a guy’s after a night of clubbing, tired feet, you collapse on the bed, you start getting each other naked, and at the crucial moment when he has already gone down… you’re getting too much pleasure to spoil the moment and fail to let him know, you’ve got Herpes, one of the most commonly spread infection through oral sex.

So if we decide to play it safe and make the time to go and get tested, whether it is squeezing it in between lectures or on a lunch break, we owe it to our next sexual partner to be honest. Let’s face it, if you are taking a guy back of an evening or being invited round for a hook up after ten minutes of ‘chatting’ on Grindr, you probably know what is going to follow, so a little bit of honesty should always be the best policy, shouldn’t it?

 

For more information on sexual health, symptoms and clinics, visit the Gay Men’s Sexual Health Charity online at www.gmfa.org.uk, and for full findings of the survey conducted by Stonewall visit www.stonewall.org.uk.