Men who have sex with men (MSM)
What does MSM mean?
MSM stands for men who have sex with men and refers to people assigned male at birth who engage in sexual activity with people of the same sex.
MSM do not have to identify as homosexual and can, for example, also have sex and relationships with women. MSM may have oral and anal sex. The same applies to women who have sex with women, they do not have to identify as lesbian and can also have sex with men. Women may have oral sex, but also engage in sex using fingers and toys.
MSM are disproportionately affected by STIs, including HIV. This is because HIV is transmitted more easily through anal sex compared to vaginal sex, as the lining of the rectum is thinner and can be easily damaged, allowing HIV to enter the body. MSM may be at increased risk for HIV and other STIs because of their sexual network and factors such as the number of concurrent partners, condomless sex, anal sex, or drug use. Another factor that contributes to increased STI prevalence in MSM is that many men do not come out or secretly have sex with other men due to stigma, lack of acceptance, and even laws against having same-sex relationships. As a result, MSM may not get tested for STIs or do so less often. They also may have reduced access to safe sex materials, such as condoms or PrEP. Due to the behavioral, social, and biological factors affecting MSM, their risk of STIs is higher than average, making them a key population in STI prevention.
STI prevention for MSM
HIV can be transmitted if infected body fluids (blood, semen, pre-cum, or rectal fluids) enter the bloodstream of an individual without HIV. If you are an MSM who has had anal sex in the last six months and 1) have not consistently used a condom 2) have been diagnosed with another STI in the past six months 3) have a partner with HIV, consider talking to your GP or a sexual health clinic about taking pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) pills. PrEP can prevent an HIV infection from occurring if it is taken before being exposed to the virus. However, you can also reduce your risk of HIV by always using a condom, getting tested regularly for STIs, and having sex with one regular partner who does not have sex with others. It is also important to know that individuals with HIV that take daily antiretroviral medication can have a suppressed viral load, meaning HIV is at a very low level or even detectable in their blood. People with a suppressed viral load cannot transmit HIV to their sex partners. If you have a partner with HIV, it is still recommended to get tested regularly (twice a year) to be sure.
You can also protect yourself against hepatitis B by getting vaccinated, which you can request from your GP or a sexual health clinic.
STI testing for MSM
With Homed-IQ you can test yourself for several different STIs from home. Complete the STI Test Guide and Symptom Guide to find out which test(s) are right for you. According to NHG guidelines, MSM may be tested for:
- Syphilis and HIV (if you know you are HIV positive, you do not need to be tested)
- Chlamydia and gonorrhoea (using a urine test, throat swab, or anal swab)
- Hepatitis B (if you are not vaccinated)
- Hepatitis C (when you have HIV or take PrEP)
Find all Sexual Health Tests on our website.
Treatment of STIs
If your test result is positive, Homed-IQ will give you more information about next steps in your personal account. You can always contact your GP, a sexual health clinic, or our medical specialist if you have a question about the results.