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Men who have sex with men (MSM)

Men who have sex with men (MSM) have increased rates of certain STIs, for example HIVsyphilisgonorrhoea or hepatitis

HIV diagnoses have been increasing among MSM in Northern Ireland.8 Gonorrhoea cases in MSM have tripled since 2010.9

In 2013, more than 8 out of 10 men diagnosed with syphilis were MSM.9

If you are a man who is having sex with men, there are ways you can protect your sexual health, including:

When you attend a GUM clinic you will be offered a full sexual health screen, including vaccinations for hepatitis A and B and HPV.

Hepatitis A risk for MSM

Hepatitis A is a liver infection that is spread by a virus in faeces.

How hepatitis A is spread

It is spread mainly through contaminated food or poor hand-washing, but can also be passed on easily through sex.  During sex, it is mainly passed on:

  • when licking skin, condoms or sex toys that have small amounts of faeces on them;
  • during oral-anal sex (‘rimming’);
  • when giving oral sex after anal sex.

Gay and bisexual men with multiple partners are particularly at risk.  

Outbreaks of hepatitis A have been reported in Europe, mostly affecting MSM.

Symptoms of hepatitis A

Symptoms of hepatitis A can appear up to eight weeks after exposure to the risk and include:

  • flu like symptoms
  • nausea
  • diarrhoea
  • tiredness
  • itchy skin
  • stomach pain
  • jaundice (your skin and the whites of your eyes are yellow).

Hepatitis A can be unpleasant, but it's not usually serious and most people make a full recovery within a couple of months.  However, it can occasionally last for many months and, in rare cases, it can be life-threatening if it causes liver failure.

Protecting yourself against hepatitis A

Men can avoid getting hepatitis A by:

  • washing your hands after sex (ideally your buttocks, groin and penis too);
  • changing condoms between anal and oral sex;
  • using latex gloves for fisting;
  • not sharing sex toys;
  • vaccination.

If you think you might have hepatitis A, or have any questions, visit a GUM clinic or your GP.

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