As a Gay/MSM Man, Are You “Out” to Your Doctor?

     Here’s a fact for you to chew on, and then hopefully swallow.  According to a study conducted by the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention (CDC), 39 percent of Gay males/MSM (men who have sex with men) had not disclosed their sexual orientation to their physicians.  The men who participated in this particular survey were residents of the “Big Apple” (New York City).

     This number is rather disturbing.  Why?  Because by not being “out in the open” with their sexual orientation, the men in this study very well might not be receiving the type and quality of healthcare they deserve.  And need. 

     According to L. K. Regan for realjock.com, the study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, surveyed 452 gay males/MSM interviewed in bars and clubs.  These men were tested for HIV, and were offered medical and mental health services as needed.

     Regan wrote, “The 39 percent of men who chose not to disclose their sexual orientation was actually an average—but there was a high degree of variance within that number.  African-American men were the least likely to report their same-sex histories to doctors, with only 40 percent choosing to do so.  Asian and Latino men were roughly evenly split, with 53 and 52 percent respectively reporting having discussed their sexual status with their doctors.  White men were the most likely to bring up the topic, with 81 percent reporting a candid relationship with their physicians.”

     Dr. Monica Sweeney, the New York City Health Department’s Assistant Commissioner for HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control, attributed these differences in disclosure to stigma.  “There is a frequent phenomenon in the Black community in which a man who is gay, by the conventional ways that we all know to identify somebody as gay, identifies himself as bisexual,” stated Dr. Sweeney. The study also found that none of the men who identified as bisexual reported their same-sex activities to their doctors.  Dr. Sweeney oversees a comprehensive effort to improve HIV prevention, diagnosis, treatment and case management.

      Additionally, the study uncovered linkage along the lines of age and nationality.  “Men over the age of 28 were 17 percent more likely to have an open relationship about their sexual preference and history with their physicians.  A greater degree of education and having been born in the U.S. were also found to be predictors of being out to one’s doctor,” Regan reported.

      This CDC study’s other major finding involved the consequences of these choices.  “Men who disclosed their sexual activity with other men were twice as likely to be tested for HIV as their more secretive counterparts,” continued Regan.  “This has major implications from a public health perspective, since encouraging men to talk more to their doctors could lead to more comprehensive HIV testing, and to more men practicing safer sex.”

     As Dr. Sweeney emphasized that men should not be afraid to “come clean” with their medical providers, she in turn stated that a great deal of the responsibility lies with doctors themselves.  “When the doctor initiates the subject, no matter how sensitive, most people talk about these things,” she said.  “They’re reluctant to initiate, but once you bring up highly emotional issues, patients will talk about it if you’re not judgmental.”

     Don’t feel comfortable about speaking to your physician about your sex life?  Then, it’s high time to find a new doc!  To locate a LGBTQ physician, visit the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association at www.glma.org     

 

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