For gay guys, good sex is an important part of our lives. And of course, sex is as complicated as ever.
Many of us still worry about the transmission of HIV and STIs. And we’re still figuring out how to take care of ourselves when society doesn’t always make it easy to do so. As a community, gay guys and other men who have sex with men are still challenged by homophobia, transphobia, HIV stigma and nasty attitudes about sex, gender, identity, and relationships.
Shame and misunderstanding about sex and pleasure can make it hard to be honest with ourselves and others about the sex we’re having and the sex we really want. And if we can’t talk honestly about our desires, how can we make sure we’re looking out for ourselves and for each other?
But a lot of guys are still having great sex and thinking about these questions. Although HIV and STI rates are still high for gay men, there’s a lot of new information to help us respond.
- We know a lot more about when HIV transmission happens, and that a lot of it is when guys are undiagnosed and not getting treatment.
- There are several effective ways to stop HIV such as PrEP, condoms, PEP, and undetectable viral load. Using condoms along with another HIV prevention strategy also protects against STIs.
- We know that it is really important that guys who have condomless sex get tested for HIV and other STIs regularly, every few months if possible.
- If a guy becomes HIV-positive, we know that getting connected to care right away is the best for his health.
- HIV stigma is still stopping a lot of us from having the conversations we need to have, which leads to worse personal and community health outcomes, instead of making us safer.
- Other problems impacting gay men — homophobia, mental health issues, racism, issues around using drugs, to name a few — make it even harder to prevent HIV or other STIs, and affect guys’ ability to look out for themselves and each other.
Even though condoms work well to prevent HIV and other STIs, not everybody wants to use them. There are lots of reasons guys do or don’t use condoms. Some guys find it hot to fuck without condoms. There are guys who don’t use condoms who are using PrEP, or others who are getting treated for HIV, and some HIV-negative guys are choosing not to use condoms because they and their partners are combining other strategies. There are guys who are in relationships who have given up condoms and have relationship agreements when it comes to sex outside of the relationship. MPOX has added another layer of considerations for us when we’re figuring out how to protect ourselves.
So let’s talk about it. While we’re cruising, dating, sucking, fucking, and loving, it’s as important as ever to be honest with ourselves about the sex we’re having, the sex we want, and what we can do in our own lives to figure out what “gay men’s health” means to us. Learn about the strategies you can use, and use the ones that feel best to you.
Ask yourself, what is the sex you want?