Gay health: the issues

If you’re gay, lesbian or bisexual, by being aware of your health risks and having relevant health checks, you can stay healthy and reduce your risk of illness.

Gay men, lesbians and bisexual people have the same health needs as straight people.

However, research shows that people with same-sex partners may have a higher risk of contracting certain conditions, for instance lesbians may have a higher risk of breast cancer and gay men are at higher risk of HIV. They may also be less likely to take advantage of screening and other health checks so health problems are not picked up as early as they could be.

Sexual health

If you’re a gay or bisexual man, using condoms and having regular sexual health checks can help you maintain a healthy sex life and reduce your risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). For more information on STIs and how to get tested, go to our page on sexual health for gay and bisexual men.

While the risks for lesbians may be lower, women who have sex with other women can still catch and pass on STIs. For more information on safer sex for women, see sexual health for gay and lesbian women.

HIV and AIDS

The number of people living with HIV in the UK is rising, and gay men are in a higher-risk group for getting it.

To find out the facts about HIV, including how to avoid it and how to get tested, read our article on HIV and AIDS.

Screening tests for gay people

Illnesses such as cancer can affect anyone, but research suggests that gay men and lesbians may be less likely to be screened for certain conditions.

All women in the appropriate age groups should have regular cervical and breast screening, and men are eligible for screening for certain cancers, as well as sexual health screening.

For more information, go to our article on health checks for men and women.

Mental health issues

Depression and anxiety affect gay and straight people. However, research shows that these conditions may be more common in gay, lesbian and bisexual people. This may be linked to experiences of homophobia or bullying.

For more information on mental health issues and how to get help, read our article on looking after your mental health.

Drugs, smoking and alcohol

Research shows that lesbians tend to drink more than straight women, and that gay men and lesbians generally take more drugs and are more likely to smoke than heterosexuals.

Find out more about drugs, alcohol and smoking.

Coming out to your doctor

You may be reluctant to tell your GP that you’re gay, or you may think it’s irrelevant. But not doing so could mean you miss out on important services.

For information on these services and advice on being open about your sexuality with your GP, read the article on access to healthcare.

Page last reviewed: 17/08/2012

Next review due: 17/08/2014

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