When sexual health requires stealth

Published: November 10, 2011

Bisexual men have unique health needs compared to exclusively homosexual and heterosexual men, but the stigma they face makes learning of their needs – and even reaching bi men in their “hidden communities” – difficult for public health professionals, say researchers at Indiana University in the USA.

The reported need for privacy, because of the perceived stigma and lack of acceptance in both homosexual and heterosexual communities, is so pervasive that bisexual men often do not feel comfortable accessing sexual health-related services, even those targeted toward “gay and bisexual men,” because of a concern over what others would think of their bisexuality.

A more general approach to providing services, framed as “men’s health” or “men’s sexual health,” will most likely be more effective, researchers learned. “In terms of designing a specific program for behaviorally bisexual men, we’ve learned it will not be effective to openly advertise about it or put it on billboards; we have to be more discreet,” said Brian Dodge, associate director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at IU.

Dodge’s research for nearly 10 years has involved bisexual behavior and associated health needs, yet these findings from his recent study were “surprising.”

“The fear of disclosure, desire for privacy, and anticipation of stigma are even more problematic than we anticipated,” he said. “The reasons for these issues eventually need to be addressed not only with bisexual men but also at the societal level if we are to increase participation in effective health services without operating in stealth.”

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