"Got STD Testing?:" Meeting the STD and HIV Testing Needs of Men Who Have Sex With Men (MSM)

Published: April 11, 2011

Got STD testing?

That’s right. Many people think about getting tested for Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) like Madison Avenue made us think about buying milk: Just get it. When it comes to milk, that approach is fine. Milk is milk, regardless of who’s buying. Not so for STD testing. That’s because recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regarding STD testing depend on the person getting tested, the gender of his or her sex partners, and the types of sex he or she is having with those partners.  One size doesn’t fit all.

That distinction is critically important for men who have sex with men (MSM), among whom STDs (including HIV) exact a disproportionate toll and for whom CDC’s recommendations for STD screening are substantially different from its recommendations for women and men who have sex only with women. In my experience as a physician specializing in STDs, it’s rare that my MSM patients know which STDs they ought to be screened for, and how often. And studies show that MSM don’t get screened often enough for diseases like syphilis, gonorrhea, and HIV.

This lack of knowledge would be less of an issue if clinicians did a better job of safeguarding the sexual health of their MSM patients. But clinicians often don’t know the sexual orientation of their MSM patients – and even if they do, they often fall short of CDC recommendations in advising their MSM patients about their sexual health.  The following recommendations are meant to help MSM patients get screened appropriately for STDs, including HIV:

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