Discussing your sexual health with a doctor is important to your health. Even though it may be uncomfortable, you shouldn’t avoid the topic while in the exam room, no matter what your sexual preference is.
For men who have sex with men, having a conversation with your doctor about sexual health is vital. This is because you may be more vulnerable than others to sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as HIV, as well as other health conditions.
You may have several concerns about disclosing your sexuality with your doctor. These may include:
- concern about your doctor’s reaction
- a desire to keep your sexual life private
- worry about the stigma or discrimination associated with your sexual identity
Despite these reservations, you should still have an honest conversation with your doctor about your sexual health. Your doctor is legally obligated to keep your personal information private. The information you discuss can be integral to staying healthy.
Here are some suggestions to have a meaningful conversation about your sexual health with your doctor.
Prepare for your appointment
Doing some prep work before your doctor’s appointment will help provide room for a productive discussion.
First, make sure you’re comfortable with the doctor you plan to see. You can determine whether a doctor is a good fit by asking friends or acquaintances for recommendations. When calling to make the appointment, ask the office whether the doctor sees patients with varied sexual identities.
You may want to consider bringing a trusted friend or family member to your appointment to put you at ease. This person can be an advocate for you and listen to the conversation to help you remember topics you discussed.
Write down discussion points ahead of time. These might include questions about sexual health or anything else that comes to mind. Putting these on paper will ensure your doctor addresses all your concerns during your appointment.
Be open about your sexuality
You don’t have to exclaim your sexual preferences as soon as the doctor walks into the exam room. You can bring it up during your appointment on your own terms.
You may want to be clear to your doctor about how you self-identify and provide the terms you use to describe your sexuality and sexual partners. This will help your doctor use the right language in your discussion.
Your doctor should be respectful of what you share. By law, your doctor must keep your conversation confidential. Once you share the information, your doctor will discuss issues pertinent to having sex with other men. Some of these topics may include:
- STIs and HIV
- safe sex practices
- sexual satisfaction
- questions or concerns you have about your sexual identity or sexual partners
Men who have sex with men are at an increased risk of HIV and STIs, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Your doctor will likely explain more about these conditions and discuss preventative measures with you. Preventative measures include:
- getting tested for STIs with your sexual partner
- always wearing condoms during sex
- being mindful of the number of sexual partners you have
- getting vaccinated against hepatitis A and B and human papillomavirus
- taking certain medications to avoid getting HIV if you’re having sex with someone who is HIV-positive
Your doctor may also ask questions about your use of tobacco, alcohol, and drugs, as well as your mental health. Substance abuse and mental health issues affect men who have sex with men more frequently than other men, according to the CDC.
Discuss your sexual history honestly
It’s likely that your doctor will ask about your sexual history. It’s important that you’re honest with your doctor about your previous sexual partners and experiences.
Your doctor may recommend certain actions based on your sexual history. There are many tests available to determine whether you have an STI or HIV. Many STIs don’t have visible symptoms, so you may not know if you’re infected until tested.
Make sure you refer to your prepared questions or bring up questions as they arise during your appointment. You may find that you discuss a wide range of topics and that not all information is clear during the conversation.
Your doctor could make the assumption that you understand information about a certain topic or speak using a lot of jargon or acronyms. If this happens at any point, you should ask your doctor to clarify.
Find another doctor if necessary
Don’t continue to see a doctor if you don’t have a good experience during your appointment. You should be able to discuss your sexual health freely and without judgment. It’s imperative that you have an open relationship with your doctor. It’s important to be able to disclose vital information that relates to your health.
Discussing your sexual health with a doctor may not be easy, but it’s important. Try to find a doctor who makes you feel comfortable and who is receptive to your questions and concerns. Your doctor can inform you about issues and provide services related to your sexual health. This will ensure that you maintain all aspects of your health.