LGBT Health
NHS Choices

Sexual Health for LGBT men who have sex with men, non-binary people and trans men and women

Having unprotected genital-genital penetrative sex or oral sex puts you at risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

If you are having penetrative vaginal or anal sex, using a condom or femidom helps protect against HIV and cuts the risk of getting many other STIs.

There are more LGBT people living with HIV than ever, so having sex without using a condom/Femidom is extremely risky. See the page for HIV and AIDS for LGBT people.

Many STIs are more difficult to treat if you've got HIV. Some, like syphilis, may even accelerate HIV's progression.

According to Gary Williams from Birmingham's Healthy Gay Life project, hepatitis C is also a risk, especially in those with HIV. "Hepatitis C is treatable in some cases, but it's a long and drawn-out process. So to prevent its spread, use a condom."

Screening for hepatitis C isn't routinely carried out, but if you think you're at risk or have been exposed, speak to your GP or visit a GUM clinic. If you regularly have unprotected anal sex, you should have a check up at least every six months at a sexual health clinic. “For some infections, you will not see any symptoms," says Williams.

Trans men, trans women and non-binary people may also be at risk. If you have unprotected penetrative sex then you should ensure you have a check up.

Speak to your GP or visit a GUM clinic.

Find your nearest GUM clinic

If you think you’ve been exposed to or are at risk of hepatitis C, you should have a test. Speak to your GP or go to a GUM clinic.

Gonorrhoea ('the clap')

This bacterial infection can cause stinging when urinating or the feeling that you want to urinate but can't. It's treated with antibiotics.

Read more about gonorrhoea.

Non-specific urethritis (NSU)

This is an inflammation of the urethra that's caused by bacteria. It's caught in the same way as gonorrhoea and often has similar symptoms. It can be caught from an infected person and is treated using antibiotics.

Read more about NSU.

Chlamydia

This is a bacterial infection of the urethra, rectum or throat. There may be a discharge and pain when passing urine or pain in the testicles (although chlamydia can be symptom-free).

It can be caught during sex with an infected person in the same way as gonorrhoea and NSU. It's treated with antibiotics.

Read more about chlamydia.

Shigella

This is a bacterial infection of the intestine that causes severe diarrhoea and stomach cramps. It is often mistaken for food poisoning. It can be caught during sexual activity, including anal-oral sex ("rimming") and giving oral sex after anal sex. It is spread very easily – all it takes is a tiny amount of infected poo (faeces) getting into your mouth.

A person with shigella can be infectious for up to a month. It can be treated with antibiotics. If you suspect you have shigella, you should visit your GP or sexual health clinic to get tested.

You can avoid getting shigella by washing hands after sex (buttocks, groin and genitals too, if you can by taking a shower), and changing condoms between anal and oral sex. Using latex/vinyl gloves for fingering or fisting offers protection. And don't share sex toys or douching equipment.

You'll find more information on shigella in this leaflet (PDF, 2.13Mb).

Genital herpes

Genital herpes is a viral infection. Symptoms can include painful blisters and ulcers on or around the genitals or anus, although some people have no symptoms.

Genital herpes can be caught through oral sex with someone with a cold sore around or in their mouth, or by close, skin-to-skin genital contact with someone who has genital herpes.

Antiviral tablets can help the healing process and shorten the length of the episode. A GP can prescribe tablets or cream.

Read more about genital herpes.

Syphilis

Syphilis is a bacterial infection that causes a painless ulcer, usually in the genital area. It will disappear on its own but other symptoms may appear, such as a rash on the body and swollen glands.

In its early stages, syphilis is very infectious and can be passed on by close skin contact during sex. Treatment is with antibiotic injections or tablets.

Read more about syphilis.

Genital warts

This is a common infection that appears a few weeks or months after sex with an infected person. It can cause pinhead-sized growths, mostly on or around the head of the penis but also in and around the anus.

The sooner warts are treated, the easier they are to deal with. You can't treat genital warts with the same cream you use for warts on the hands. A doctor will freeze them or use a cream to remove them.

Read more about genital warts.

Pubic lice ('crabs')

Crabs live in body hair. They only grow to pinhead size so can be difficult to spot, although their tiny dark eggs can be seen stuck to hair.

Crabs prefer pubic hair (hair in your genital and anal region) but can also be found in body hair (but not head hair). The lice can be picked up from clothes, towels and bedding. Symptoms include itching or a rash.

Treatment can be done at home with lotions bought at a chemist (no prescription is needed).

Read more about crabs.

Scabies

This is an infection caused by parasitic mites that burrow under the skin. It causes intense itching for most people (though some hardly notice it).

Itching usually starts two or more weeks after sex with an infected person. You can get scabies from sharing beds and towels, but this is less common.

Treatment is similar to treating crabs, although you may continue to itch for a few weeks after the mites have died.

Read more about scabies.

Get tested

Not all sexually transmitted infections have symptoms. If you are sexually active, have any of the symptoms above or are worried you may have an STI you should be tested regularly. Getting tested regularly is a good idea to ensure you have a healthy sex life. NHS services are free.

Find your local sexual health service.

Read more about STIs.

See also the page for Sexual Health for LGBT women, non-binary people and trans men women

Find specific advice for trans men here (Terrence Higgins Trust)

And trans women here