Tag Archives: gay health

The Gay American Smoke Out

Tobacco use in the United States has declined in recent years, according to the CDC, in both adults and high school-age adolescents. Within the spectrum of the LGBTQ community, however, the use of cigarettes and other tobacco products remains prevalent, and incredibly damaging.

The statistics are jarring. According to The Gay Smoke Out, A 1999 house-hold based survey found that 48.5% of gay and bisexual men reported smoking. The national average for straight men is 28.6%. While that survey was taken 15 years ago, the numbers today reflect immensely disproportionate use of tobacco in the LGBTQ community.

The DC Center reports:

  • Members of the LGBT community smoke at a far greater rate than that of the general population, although estimates vary widely. In one 2004 California Study, lesbian women were 70% more likely to smoke than other women, and gay men were more than 50% more likely to smoke than other men. More recent research suggests this number may be even higher. The LGBT National Tobacco Control Network estimates that the LGBT community is 50% to 200% more likely than others to be addicted to tobacco.

  • LGBT adolescents also smoke at an alarming rate, in one national study 47 of females and 36.7 of males reporting same-sex attraction or behavior smoked. In comparison, only 29% of the rest of young people in the study smoked.

The Gay American Smoke OutThese statistics and numbers are as alarming as they are curious. They beg the question: why, in a community where health is valued so highly, does the number one avoidable cause of heart disease and a plethora of cancers run rampant?

The answer is open to conjecture, but a solid sociological theory reads as such:

Smoking usually begins in the adolescent years, around the time when teens become sexually aware. The act of smoking can be used as a crutch to ease anxiety regarding the various stresses associated with hiding their sexuality.

Because most major tobacco companies add various agents to their product to make it even more addictive, the habits from youth carry over into adulthood.

Members of the LGBTQ community have resources available to them, just like members of the heterosexual community at large. If you are trying to quit smoking, please visit www.smokefree.gov, www.gaysmokeout.net, www.lung.org, or simply google all of the tips, tricks, and free quit lines available in your area.


On Alcoholism in the LGBTQ Community

Alcoholism within the LGBTQ community is an endemic problem.

Readily available, and easy to depend on to aid in feeling comfortable with the stresses of being “out”, alcohol abuse, according to The Pride Institute, is “estimated to occur in up to 45% of those within the LGBTQ community.“ That is almost half of a minority population. When compared with the eighteen million Americans (roughly 15% of the population at large) who suffer from alcohol abuse, the statistics are even more troubling. Why are the numbers regarding alcoholism tripled in the LGBTQ community? As always, the answer lies within.

Across the board, people only rely on drugs and alcohol for one reason, and it can be summed up in a single word: unhappiness.

While most members of the LGBTQ community are happy and content with their lives, their jobs, and their position in society, many self-medicate with drugs and alcohol (particularly the latter) to cope with the daily bombardment of homophobia, workplace discrimination, and the stresses (equal, yet dramatically different) of being either openly gay, or remaining closeted.

On Alcoholism in the LGBTQ CommunityAlcoholism is a symptom of a much deeper sickness that becomes it’s own disease if given enough time to develop. In order to stop the process of it spreading, the members of the LGBTQ community must focus on functioning as a whole in the social strata, and not rely so heavily on drinking to be comfortable with itself.

Programs like Alcoholics Anonymous have helped countless people recover from this crippling addiction for decades. The program works, so long as the addict wants to recover, and “works the steps”, of which there are twelve. A constant refocusing of efforts is required to remain sober, and relapsing into self-destructive behaviors is common – and treatable.

Within the spectrum of the AA treatment program, there are several subcategories, or types of groups that one can seek out. Finding a group that one is comfortable sharing with is of utmost importance in order for the program to work. On the AA website, a search-by-location option is featured on the main page. Trying several different groups before finding the right one is standard practice.

For LGBTQ-exclusive recovery groups, the Pride Institute (linked above) has a vast network of counselors and support systems available. They also offer detoxification, case management assistance, and a wide array of other mental health support programs.

HIV and AIDS among Youth and Young Adults

Youth and young adults between the ages of 13 and 24 in the United States are among the highest risk groups of being infected with HIV. The CDC reports that the greatest number of new HIV infections within this age group are among gay and bisexual males, with African-American and Latino males who have sex with other men being at even greater risk.

Why is this population increasingly at risk? There are a myriad of reasons, including a lack of sexual education and information promoting abstinence and delaying initial sexual encounters. These groups are also among the highest populations suffering from substance abuse, homelessness, and sexually transmitted infections.

HIV and AIDS among Youth and Young AdultsLooking at global numbers, a young person becomes HIV-positive every 30 seconds. Studies have shown that the majority of youth and young adults in the U.S. are not afraid of contracting HIV, which equates to low testing rates and low rates of condom use. While there are an increasing number of HIV and AIDS awareness promotion programs, youth advocacy, and health counseling, the data translates to a dire need for greater outreach efforts.

The best way to prevent infection with HIV is abstinence. Secondly, reducing the number of sexual partners, avoiding unprotected sexual encounters, and being tested regularly are the most important steps you can take to prevent infection or spreading the virus. More than half of the percentage of youth infected with HIV/AIDS were not aware that they had the virus.

While many young adults are not concerned with contracting HIV, a large number are still in denial of the increasing risk of contracting and spreading the virus. Even if you think you are not at risk, it is recommended that you get tested regularly. Speak to a professional today, there are a number free test sites available as well as youth programs and counseling services .

Health Politics Get Personal: The Lesbian Community’s Healthcare Practice

In the current gender-sensitive climate, the subject of women’s health is still on the periphery for most lesbians. With national attention consistently focusing on a woman’s right to choose in the instance of abortion, regular maintenance of the infinitely complex female body has become almost a non-issue. Too many LGBTQ women aren’t making appointments to get their bodies checked out by a doctor regularly, and it’s having an impact on both the quality of life and the life expectancy of the community.

Poet and feminist icon Audre Lorde wrote: “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” This statement of self-empowerment over the sacrificial female archetype of the time would lead one to believe that such an outspoken and forward-thinking community would take the initiative to protect itself.

Health Politics Get Personal: The Lesbian Community's Healthcare Practice

Unfortunately, that is not the case, even now. There is a false sense of security which the community lulls itself into for several reasons. Susan R. Johnson MD, MS writes in her study published in The Global Library of Women’s Medicine the following, as she explores the impetus behind the lack of self care within the lesbian community:

First, the sexual behaviors of the lesbian include all those available to the heterosexual woman except for penile–vaginal intercourse, and she needs to know if these behaviors place her at risk for disease…while most research in lesbian health has focused on gynecologic issues, a broader area of research has begun to look at primary care issues among lesbians including risks for chronic illness, mental health issues, etc. Finally, lesbians live in a unique psycho-social-economic milieu.There is the possibility that each new clinician from whom she seeks care will be indifferent or hostile simply because of her sexuality; her access to health care and insurance may be limited if partner’s benefits are not available; sources of health care may present their services in a way that is not welcoming or effective for lesbians; and lesbians may view the stages of reproductive life differently from heterosexual women, which may affect the preventive choices they make.”

Certain parts of the lesbian community may feel that it must parse itself as much as possible from the world of the heterosexual female, and in doing so, takes on the self-defeating behavior of not practicing simple self-care.

There is no excuse, for this behavior, anymore. Find a positive, caring, LGBT-friendly practice, and GO.

Sexual Agreements & Substance Abuse among Gay Couples

Researchers have been trying to understand how gay male couples’ relationships, including their sexual agreements, affect their risk of getting HIV.

According to studies, gay men and other men who have sex with men are disproportionately affected by HIV. They account for nearly two-thirds of HIV cases among men in the U.S. Also, between one-third and two-thirds of men who have sex with men acquire HIV while in a same-sex relationship, according to a recent article published in AIDS and Behavior.

According to “A Cause for Concern: Male Couples’ Sexual Agreements and Their Use of Substances with Sex,” studies have found that gay men who use illegal substances, like ecstasy, and controlled substances, like alcohol, are at an increased risk for acquiring HIV. Some of these men are also more likely to engage in high-risk sexual behavior with men who have sex with men, such as unprotected anal intercourse, and some have used substances during sex. Many of these men consider some substances “sex drugs,” it said, because they either prolong or enhance the sexual experience.

The study’s researchers decided to also figure out how sexual agreements are associated with gay male couples who use substances with sex. They define a sexual agreement as “an explicit understanding between two partners about which sexual and other behaviors are permitted to occur within, and if relevant, outside of their relationship.”

Sexual Agreements & Substance Abuse among Gay CouplesThe researchers recruited U.S. men who have sex with men using a Facebook advertisement. They looked for men who were either in a relationship, married or engaged, and they narrowed their focus to 275 HIV negative concordant couples who participated in an online survey.

The study found that 87 percent of the couples practiced high-risk behavior, and about one-third had sex outside of their relationship. Fifty-nine percent consented to a sexual agreement. A majority who agreed said it was closed, but a little over a third said it was an open agreement. A small percent were not okay with the agreement at all.

The findings also indicated that the couples having an established sexual agreement were more likely to use a variety of substances with sex particularly within their relationships. Couples who had broken their agreement were more likely to engage in the use of marijuana or amyl nitrates when having sex.

Researchers believe more studies need to look into these relationships and agreements further. Also, HIV prevention efforts, which have focused on individual gay men and communities, need to focus prevention intervention among gay male couples, especially those who use substances with sex.


Watching Sexually Risky Porn May Be a Health Risk

A new report warns about the dangers of watching Internet porn featuring risky sexual behavior among men who have sex with men, according to the report published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, “Sexually Explicit Media on the Internet: A Content Analysis of Sexual Behaviors, Risk, and Media Characteristics in Gay Male Adult Videos.

The study points out that a substantial proportion of Internet porn is targeted to and viewed by men who have sex with men.  It also refers to researchers who have suggested that the rise of Internet porn appears to coincide with decreases in safer sex practices and increases in HIV/STD acquisition among men who have sex with men.

HIV with MSM:  Why Is It Increasing and What Can We Do?The authors of the report decided to analyze gay porn found on the Internet out of concern that high risk sexual behaviors found in this content could influence men who have sex with men. They wanted to learn which sexual behaviors were the most prevalent and how it influenced the behavior of viewers.

A research team selected, viewed and analyzed a total of 302 Internet videos representing a total of 40.75 hours of video.  The most common behaviors involved masturbation, oral sex and kissing.  However, high-risk sexual behaviors were also prevalent. For instance, one-third of the Internet gay porn viewed featured unprotected anal intercourse and nearly all oral sex was unprotected.

The researchers believe their study provides important information for HIV prevention efforts. In addition, they suggest more efforts are needed to encourage Internet sites that distribute sexually explicit content to put limits on the sexual risk behaviors whether it’s produced professionally or whether it’s an amateur video. The researchers advise these Internet sites to include safe sex messaging to consumers or use warning screens for videos featuring high-risk behaviors.

HIV with MSM: Why Is It Increasing and What Can We Do?

HIV with MSM:  Why Is It Increasing and What Can We Do?Recent research released from the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) found that the rate in which gay or bisexual males contract HIV between the ages of 13 to 24 has more than doubled since 2002. Another study they conducted claims this age group made up a fourth of those diagnosed in the US in 2010. These shocking statistics are a call to arms for preventative measures. Society needs to do many things to help fight the increase of infection. Sharing why this has been happening and how to prevent the spread are the first steps towards the solution.

The younger men of today were not alive when the AIDS outbreak first hit. At the time, the disease was new, few treatments were available, and people were not aware of the risks. It infected and took the lives of millions. Older men, who were alive for the scare, are statistically showing less new diagnoses. Theorists speculate the impact of the disease on society, along with the multitude of anti-HIV campaigns, really struck a chord with those that lived through the height of the scare. Awareness today needs to be raised.

In contradiction of the previous point, many that are conscious of the disease fear getting tested because of the social stigma infection carries. Nobody wants to have AIDS or HIV, and this is worse for those that are hiding their homosexuality. Janssen Therapeutics, a researcher prevalent in black communities, says “Three of five barriers to offering routine testing for HIV are related to social stigma. Many physicians are concerned their patients may perceive the recommendation to test as accusatory or judgmental.”

HIV Affects Older Communities than Most RealizeYounger men who have sex with men are more likely to partake in risky behavior. Besides abstinence, the easiest ways to prevent HIV are to limit your partners and use condoms. Sadly, CDC research shows MSM are twice as likely to report not using a condom and around 50 percent more likely to report having four or more partners than their straight counterparts. Again, raising awareness within this group would help change these statistics.

Outside of sex, sharing needles is the easiest way to transmit HIV. Furthermore, drug use has been proven to increase risky sexual activity in all people. Young men who have sex with men, versus young men who have sex with women, are almost 10 times more likely to use injectable drugs, and they’re over 50 percent more likely to be intoxicated before sex.

While the stigma of contraction may never be lifted, America still needs to rehabilitate society so there is no stigma associated with getting tested for HIV. These men, just as anyone else infected, have more potential to spread the disease. People need to know if they have it, people need to know how they can get it, and most of all, people need to do what they can do to prevent it.

Men at Risk for HIV Don’t Identify as PrEP Candidates

Men at Risk for HIV Don’t Identify as PrEP Candidates A recent study published in the journal LGBT Health found that Men who have sex with men (MSM) New York City sex venue attendees at higher risk for HIV don’t identify themselves as candidates for Truvada, also known as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), a medication that when taken regularly is 96% effective in stopping the contraction of HIV.

Between 2011 and 2012, 629 MSM were surveyed in three venues in the Big Apple. Researchers wanted to see if and how the perspective of PrEP and who was considered a good candidate for the medication differed from the medical perspective. Unfortunately what they found was that these men’s perspective on their potential risk and candidacy for the prophylactic drug regimen was woefully out of step with reality. The iPrEx trial, the same test proved the drug’s ability to be used to prevent HIV infection back in 2010, was used to indicate whether or not a man qualified for a PrEP trial. In the previous three months the men had to have encountered at least one of the following: a diagnosis of another STD, anal sex with three or more male partners, unprotected anal sex, transactional sex, or sex with someone who was HIV positive or whose status was unknown.

WHO Says Gay Men should Take Anti-HIV DrugsThis study, however, had one differing factor to CDC guidelines when it came to candidates who should be using PrEP. The CDC recommends not to include the number of sexual partners in an evaluation for those who are good candidates for PrEP. Outside of a monogamous relationship with a non-HIV infected partner, men who have sex with men are good candidates for PrEP according to the CDC. A little over 80% of those men in this survey were candidates for PrEP, 505 of those surveyed. Out of these however, 78% or 366 said that they weren’t good candidates for PrEP, as they didn’t see themselves at high risk for HIV. Those who said that they had sex without a condom did see themselves as good candidates for PrEP.

Though interesting results, this survey has a limited demographic. It doesn’t tell us what the perception is of MSM across the country, only in New York City. At the time the study was conducted, too, less was known about PrEP in the community than is known now. More news reports and so on have been done in that time. Still, PrEP has had an upward battle in the MSM community. This is partly due to jilted lovers calling ex’s “Truvada whores.” Besides this stigma, the drug maker and even the CDC have not done full awareness campaigns to advertise PrEP even though it is thought by the WHO and other health organizations to be a significant tool in stopping the spread of HIV.

HHS Provides Training Tool for Caregivers of LGBT Seniors

HHS Provides Training Tool for Caregivers of LGBT Seniors

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), part of the executive branch, has just released a new training tool that is an online resource to help the caregivers of LGBT seniors tend more to their particular needs in long-term care facilities. The HHS’s Administration of Community Living (ACL) in a press release heralding the launch of the online learning tool called “Building Respect for LGBT Older Adults”, stated that, “There are approximately 1.5 million adults over the age of 65 who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual. By 2030, those estimates are expected to rise to nearly 3 million. Estimates indicate that there are hundreds of thousands of older adults who are transgender.”

A recent HHS survey found that just 1.7% of Americans define themselves as gay, lesbian or bisexual, although these were nationwide, face-to-face interviews, so perhaps respondents were a little apprehensive in coming forth with their sexual orientation. A 2012 Gallup Poll found that 3.4% of Americans define themselves as LGBT. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) men who identify as gay, bisexual or other comprise 2% of the U.S. population. Regardless of the confusion on numbers, the ACL states, “…many older LGBT adults do not feel safe discussing their sexuality in LTC [long-term care] facilities.”

ACL Assistant Secretary for Aging and administrator Kathy Greenlee said, “As people who work with seniors every day, it’s our job to ensure that everyone has the same protections and rights as their neighbors, friends and families.”

As for the tool itself, it is touted on the website as, “…a first step in learning about how to create safe, welcoming and inclusive services for LGBT older adults.” It has six separate training sections which each take about ten minutes each to complete. The ACL says that once a staff member has been trained through the tool he or she should be able to be increasingly aware of the issues facing LGBT seniors at LTC facilities. They should be able to bestow information easily to LGBT seniors in their care. The tool is said to encourage the online training of LTC staff facilities. The approach of LTC staff to LGBT seniors should change dramatically as a result of this tool.

SAGE’s National Resource Center on LGBT Aging helped develop the tool with a grant from HHS. SAGE is the country’s first and only technical assistance resource center aimed at improving the quality of services and supports offered to lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender older adults. Lots of other LGBT oriented organizations also contributed including the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, FORGE Transgender Aging Network, the National Senior Citizens Law Center, the National Center for Transgender Equality, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, the Methodist Home of D.C., and Rose Villa.

Lesbian and Bisexual Women Should Be Screened For Cervical Cancer

Lesbian and Bisexual Women Should Be Screened For Cervical Cancer

Cervical cancer doesn’t discriminate in terms of sexual orientation. Lesbian and bisexual women should be screened for cervical cancer just as often as straight women. Yet, these two groups undergo screening for the disease ten times less than their straight counterparts. The main reason is that lesbians and bisexual women feel marginalized by the healthcare system. Lesbians therefore don’t seek preventative care as often as straight women do. Bisexual and lesbian women are far less likely to be insured, although that is perhaps changing in light of the Affordable Care Act.

Cervical cancer is one of the most common types of cancer that women develop. However, awareness campaigns in conjunction with early screenings have made it one of the most preventable. Due to the fact that lesbians and bisexual women are screened far less often, that makes them priority groups for cervical cancer awareness and screening. There are many health factors that make these two groups more susceptible to the disease in addition to being screened far less often for it. Lesbians have higher rates of obesity and smoking. They are less likely to be insured as well. There isn’t so much data available for bisexual women, but most health experts believe that they have higher tobacco use rates and may also be more likely to be without insurance.

Since sexual orientation is not one of the data points recorded, the actual cervical cancer death rates of bisexual women and lesbians cannot be certain. One study, however, containing 90,000 straight women, 573 lesbians and 740 bisexual women found a rate of 1.3% of cervical cancer development of straight women. Lesbians have the same number, 1.3%, but bisexual women’s rate was 2.2%. This study runs counter to other studies which have suggested that lesbians and maybe even bisexual women have lower rates of cervical cancer than straight women. One study on sexual minority women in New York City found that they were far less likely to have a Pap smear test in the last one to three years. A 2012 study found that 38% of lesbians didn’t receive any routine screenings at all. Most often, those who have never had a Pap test are the most likely to be diagnosed with Cervical cancer, along with those who haven’t had a screening within the last five years.

Bisexual and lesbian women do get cervical cancer and the fact that many aren’t getting screened is putting their lives at risk.  It’s important for all women to get screened for this disease. Mortality rates and incidents of the disease have dropped in the past few decades. This is largely due to the widespread use of the Papanicolaou (Pap) test. This allows doctors to catch variants in cervical cancer cells and catch the disease when it is at its most treatable. If you have been sexually active with many partners, or have sex with both men and women, or if you have had unprotected sex you are at risk for human papilloma virus (HPV) which can cause cervical cancer. No matter what your situation see your doctor and get screened regularly. It might just save your life.