whats going on down there?
There are many identities that fall under the umbrella of Men who have Sex with Men (MSM) - including, but not limited to: bisexual, cis, curious, gay, male, non-binary, queer, questioning, straight, trans, two-spirit, and all other guys-who-like-guys.
For the sake of simplicity, we will use the acronym MSM in this topic.
For many MSM, sex is an important part of life. The MHI can supply you with the resources, information and education to maintain a fun and safer sex life.
Currently, condoms are the only publicly funded and effective way to protect yourself from HIV and other STI’s. There are 2 types of condoms, external (to cover a penis) and inernal (to insert in a vagina or anus). The MHI offers condoms and lube for free at the Living Positive Resource Centre and also distributes them at local events.
For a complete list of locations that provide condoms and other harm reduction supplies visit smartsexresource.com
PrEP, or pre-exposure prophylaxis, is a new tool in HIV prevention. It is available: to those in BC who qualify as a high-risk group (including gay, bisexual and other MSM), under some private insurance plans and through First Nations Health Authorities. Someone who is HIV negative can take anti-HIV medications on a daily basis to reduce their risk of getting infected. PrEP must be taken before engaging in activities where there is a risk of HIV infection, making it harder for the HIV virus to establish itself in the body. PrEP does NOT protect against other STIs. For more information on PrEP visit getpreped.ca or youthco.org
Undetectable = Untransmittable (U=U)
People in BC who have tested positive for HIV have medications available to them for free through the BC Centre for Excellence. As such, while on medications, these people can achieve and maintain an 'undetectable viral load' which has proven to not only help their health, put prevent the spread of HIV. Basically, a person living with HIV who is 'undetectable' cannot transmit HIV. Exposure to other STIs is still a risk with unprotected sex. The Government of Canada stand behind the science and statement of U=U, for more information about it preventionaccess.org
PEP or NPEP
Non-occupational Post Exposure Prophylaxis can potentially prevent you from contracting HIV within 72 hours from being exposed . This is not 'safer sex' but it is option available at any hospital emergency room in BC. For a full list of Emergency Centres in BC visit healthlinkbc.ca
HOMOPHOBIA, DISCRIMINATION & STIGMA
Access to MSM-friendly health services is an important component to men’s health. Fear of discrimination and homophobia has made it difficult for some men to disclose their sexual orientation, sexual practices and/or health concerns to their healthcare provider. This may seriously compromise the quality of care they receive.
Here are some suggestions for healthcare providers to help make their services more accessible to MSM:
~ Avoid making assumptions about sexual orientation or behaviours of your patient. MSM are of all ages, cultures and backgrounds.
~ Acknowledge that it takes a degree of trust for a man to disclose his identity or sexual behaviours to you. If you cannot support your patient’s identity, please refer them to a practitioner who can.
~ Be aware that confidentiality may be a concern. Discuss documentation and access to records.
~ Take an active role in educating yourself about gay men’s health.
Smart Sex Resource - You can ask a question or chat privately and confidentially with the nurses at the BC Centre for Disease Control. Reliable information. No judgment. So ask away! The host an interactive clinic finder as well, type in your address, even select a specific services, and locations will show up on a map!
Sex & U - From talking about sex, to lifestyle choices, to contraception awareness and sexually transmitted infections, SexandU.ca provides accurate, credible, and up-to-date information and education on topics related to sexual and reproductive health.
STI TESTING OPTIONS
IN BC's INTERIOR
Currently there are no Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) testing clinics in the Interior Health Authority region. These services did exist prior to 2011, but after shutting down the many STI testing clinics, it is now expected that you see your primary health practitioner (Doctor or Registered Nurse) for any STI testing needs.
As this is not an option for many guys, we have to rely on various services that exist in and outside of our region - some of which may or may not be trained around cultural sensitivities for MSM, some of which only offer a limited scope of STI testing, and some of which are a long drive away from where we live.
BC STI Clinic Finder
Please refer to the interactive BC Map below to be able to find sexual health services closest to you.
Thanks to the folks at BC Centre for Disease Control and SmartSex Resource for making this handy tool available to use on our MHI website
PRICK! - A project from MHI that provides private and confidential on-the-spot STI and HIV testing event for all 'guys who like guys.' Limited availability in Kelowna, Penticton and Kamloops with hopes of further expansion. Check out our PRICK! page on this site.
Interior Health Outreach Team - Provides HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C testing partner notification, referrals, counselling, medication adherence support, and HIV education for individuals and groups. The team is available to provide service to all Interior Health communities Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. To connect with a Health Outreach Nurse call toll free 1-866-778-7736.
Options for Sexual Health - A non-profit organization that offers limited evening clinics in various communities through-out BC including those in the interior, including: Castlegar, Cranbrook, Creston, Fernie, Golden, Grand Forks, Invermere, Kaslo, Kelowna, Lumby, Midway, Nakusp, Nelson, Penticton, Revelstoke, Salmon Arm, Sicamous, Trail, Vernon and West Kelowna, call 1-800-739-7367 to make an appointment
Get Checked Online - Currently only available in Kamloops and Nelson for testing of chlamydia, gonorrhea, HIV, syphilis and hepatitis C. You can set up a lab form from home on your computer (you will need a printer) and then take it to a participating LifeLabs site to give your samples.
Valley Medical Labs - provides On Demand HIV Testing at their locations throughout the Okanagan including: Kelowna, Osoyoos, Penticton, Vernon and Winfield. You can print the HIV requisition form at home via the VML website, or just ask for an HIV test at any of their clinic locations.
Emergency Department - Many of you may not have any of the above choices available to you and may consider visiting your local hospital emergency department to be assessed and tested for STIs, The link from this heading provides the addresses and phone numbers of Interior Health hospitals.
Health Initiatives for Men - A great organization with full STI testing clinics specifically for MSM, available in various locations in and around Vancouver. If you are considering a trip to the coast you may want to check HIM out.