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Oral Sex, Drugs Significant in Spread of STDs Among Gay Men
by GayHealth Staff


Drug and alcohol use often leads to unsafe sex, according to a survey of more than 3,500 white men who have sex with men (MSM) in the District of Columbia.

The survey, conducted by the Whitman Walker Clinic in Washington, DC, and the District of Columbia Department of Health, also found that oral sex plays a "significant role" in the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

While oral sex is somewhat safer than other forms of sex, it can still be an avenue for infection with an STD.

Participants were between 18 and 35 years old. Most of the respondents -- 66 percent -- said they had sex while under the influence of drugs or alcohol in the previous year. Alcohol was used by 79 percent of respondents. Alcohol was also a factor in the decision of whether or not to use a condom, with 58 percent of participants saying they were more likely to have unprotected sex when drinking. Poppers were used by 39 percent of participants and about 30 percent reported marijuana and ecstasy use.

Protected oral sex was extremely rare; only about five percent of respondents reported using condoms during oral sex with casual sexual partners.

Almost 85 percent of participants with an STD said they used a condom "always" or "more than 50 percent of the time" during anal sex when they were the receptive partner; 75 percent used a condom "always" or "more than 50 percent of the time" during anal sex when they were the insertive partner.

"This survey, the first of its kind in Washington, DC, reveals some disturbing trends among MSMs but also yields some hopeful information," said A. Cornelius Baker, Executive Director of Whitman-Walker Clinic. "It confirms one thing we've known all along, that alcohol and drugs impair people's ability to make healthy decisions when it comes to sex. It also reveals that, while oral sex is somewhat safer than other forms of sex, it can still be an avenue for infection with an STD."

Being open about your sexual orientation and feeling comfortable with your healthcare provider proved crucial when receiving quality sexual health care. MSM who donít share their sexual orientation with their healthcare provider may not receive necessary sexual health screenings, according to the survey. Those who disclosed their sexual orientation to their providers were more likely to receive preventative healthcare including HIV tests, STD screening and testing and Hepatitis vaccinations.

"It shows that MSMs who are 'out' to their doctors are more likely to receive appropriate preventive health care such as HIV and STD testing and Hepatitis vaccinations. Being open with a medical provider about one's sexuality is key to good health," according to Baker.

Results indicate a majority of MSMs would like to find HIV-prevention resources in bars and clubs. As a result the agencies have partnered to install free condom machines in local bars frequented by MSMs.

Updated: Wednesday, February 13th 2002

 

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