Public Health England: ‘Gay men disproportionately affected by ill-health’

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Gay and bisexual men are disproportionately affected by poor sexual health, mental health challenges and the use of alcohol, drugs and tobacco, Public Health England says.

The health agency has published the first of several documents which will together provide a framework for action over the coming six months.

Gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (MSM) account for an estimated 5.5% of the male population in the UK.

Public Health England (PHE) said: “There are three distinct but overlapping areas in which MSM bear a disproportionate burden of ill-health. These are: sexual health and HIV; mental health; and the use of alcohol, drugs and tobacco.

“There is an opportunity for a new approach: one that focuses on these three areas of greatest need and places them in the context of the life course.

“PHE believes this approach will be effective at achieving an overall vision for MSM to enjoy long, healthy lives, to have respectful and fulfilling social and sexual relationships and to significantly reduce the annual number of new HIV infections in MSM by 2020.”

According to PHE, gay and bisexual men are twice as likely to be depressed or anxious compared to other men.

Smoking rates are higher for gay and bisexual men compared to their heterosexual counterparts.

Figures released last month for England showed a significant rise in cases of gonorrhoea among gay and bisexual men.

The number of diagnoses of STIs reported in gay men has risen sharply in recent years, some of it is due to increased testing, but Public Health England also noted “that ongoing high levels of unsafe sex are leading to more STI transmission in this population”.