There are many free and low-cost HIV testing sites across the United States. To find a place to get tested, visit the CDC’s website here.
You and your healthcare provider will decide which STDs you should get tested for. But know ahead of time what you’re being tested for, since gay men often need different services than straight men. You might need to advocate for yourself and for the care you need if your health care provider isn’t an expert in gay men’s health.
Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Be open and honest with your health care provider. Does your provider know you have sex with other men? Don’t be afraid to be honest about the number of partners you have or the kinds of sex you have. Your health provider is there to help you, not judge you. If you feel like your provider isn’t supporting you in ways that help you be healthy, it may be time for you to find a gay-friendly health provider.
- In addition to drawing some of your blood and asking you to pee in a cup, your provider should also swab your butt, and your throat. That’s because men who have anal and oral sex can get infections in their throat and butt, in addition to their penis. A simple guideline to follow is: wherever a dick has gone – your butt or throat – you should get tested there. In fact, the majority of infections can be missed by not swabbing your throat or butt.
- Before you walk out of your provider’s office, make sure you know how you’ll get your results. Will they be online? Will they be mailed to you? Or do you have to call the office in a few days to check? If you don’t get your results after a few days, call your provider’s office to check on them.
- Get tested on a regular basis. Figure out with your provider how often it makes sense for you to get tested. If you’re having regular sex with more than one partner, it might make sense for you to get tested every three months.
Below are some questions that your doctor may ask you. While they may seem personal, by answering these questions you provide your doctor with information that may help you lower your risk of STDs, including HIV. In some cases, your doctor may not ask you these questions, so you should be prepared to offer this information on your own. These questions could include:
- Are you currently sexually active?
- In the last three to six months, how many sexual partners have you had?
- Do you have sex with women, men, both, transgender persons, or all of the above?
- Have you had unprotected anal, oral or vaginal sex?
- Have you ever had an STD test where your doctor took a q-tip like swab of the back of your throat or rectum?
- Have you had a positive test result for HIV or other STDs? If yes, were you treated at that time?
- Do you or your partner engage in recreational drug use like shooting up or using club drugs?
You should also come to your doctor visits with any additional questions that you have about your sexual health and well-being.
Another part of having a conversation with your doctor is being able to talk about any sexual health issues or concerns you may have, including sexual assault or domestic violence. Although your doctor might not have all the resources to help you, s/he should be able to direct you to a trained professional who can assist with these concerns.
Adapted from It’s Your (Sex) Life, Planned Parenthood, NASTAD