It can be challenging to ask your doctor health questions as a gay man in Africa, but the line between life and death can be avoided with the right few words. FYI there is no disease or virus that exclusively attacks the gay man, anyone can be a victim but let’s focus on the ones LGBT should pay extra attention to. Having a gay men’s health checklist in mind should help you overcome some of your health worries. Undergoing a checkup is an important way to take stock of your health and make any important changes in your lifestyle (diet, exercise modifications and substance use), to protect your health and well-being.
For someone prone to violence and discrimination, asking health questions in relation to your sexuality can cause more harm than good. So be smart about your approach when dealing with a regular doctor and there are a few gay friendly doctors and clinics around, so don’t be afraid to ask around for help in locating them. So when you’ve found the right doctor, here are some questions you need to be asking them;
1. What sexually transmitted infections should I worry about?
If you don’t know your HIV status, you should ask your doctor for a test. We still have millions of people annually who are becoming HIV positive, and many of them are unaware of their HIV status. They can unwittingly transmit the virus to others, and can become sick themselves if not treated. There are many other infections (some more deadly than HIV) you should also know about and getting the right information is the first step to protecting yourself. Some these infections include; syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, hepatitis, herpes, and the human papillomavirus (HPV). Safer sex can reduce your risk for getting an STI, so ask your doctor for a comprehensive screening.
2. Do I need to be screened for HPV?
HPV is the sexually transmitted infection responsible for nearly all cases of cervical cancer in women. In men, it usually causes anal or genital warts, but concern is growing that HPV could play a role in increased rates of anal cancer among gay men. Some doctors recommend that gay men receive routine anal Pap smears, similar to the testing that women get. This could help detect and treat HPV and head off anal cancer. There are over 100 different kinds of HPV and not all of them cause health problems but there are some types that cause significant damage.
Click HERE to find out more about HPV.
3. Am I eating right and exercising enough?
Talk with your doctor about whether your weight is healthy, skinny can be as dangerous as obesity in some cases, so get informed. Your doctor can also give you tips for eating a healthy diet and pursuing an exercise plan. Eating right and exercising can help prevent many serious health issues, including heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol, cancer, stroke, and high blood pressure.
4. Should I be worried about my drinking or drug use?
Researchers have found that LGBT communities report the use of alcohol and substances more frequently. If you are in this category, know It may not be a problem for you now, but talk with your doctor about the long-term consequences of alcohol and other drug use. You definitely should raise the issue if your drug use is interfering with your work, your education, your relationships and decision-making. Also, having sex under the influence of alcohol or drugs can make you less conscious of the necessary restrictions needed for safe sex.
5. What other health screenings do I need at my age?
Everyone needs a certain tests performed at intervals throughout their lives to stave off chronic illness, such as prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and colon cancer. Hepatitis immunization and screening is another. Here are more key health screenings you might need:
- A blood pressure check at least once every 2 years
- A cholesterol check at least once every 5 years
- A regular screening for colorectal cancer starting at age 50
- A regular prostate exam, also starting at age 50
6. Should I really quit smoking?
Smoking leads to a wide array of health problems like cancer, lung disease, and heart disease. Your doctor can help explain why it is so dangerous and walk you through rehabilitation methods and prescribe nicotine patches and gums to help you with your cravings.
7. Am I at risk for depression, anxiety, or another mood disorder?
As a gay man in Africa, you’re more likely than the general public to experience depression or anxiety. Your sexuality can place you under great stress, especially if you don’t have the support of friends or family. Daily life then adds its own set of problems and worries, so asking about your mental states seem like the really right thing to do. Your doctor can set up a screening for depression and help you find a therapist if you need it.
8. Should I be on PrEP?
In 2012, PrEP (or pre-exposure prophylaxis) was approved in the United States for the prevention of HIV. This once-daily oral pill dramatically reduces the odds of contracting HIV by making it very difficult for the virus to take hold in the body (watch this video to learn more about how it works).
Several studies have found that PrEP reduces the risk of contracting HIV by 90 percent or more. The drug is most effective when taken every day, with some research suggesting that it may be closer to 100 percent effective when taken consistently. So why not ask your doctor for some more information on this medical miracle.