Gay and bisexual men in England face more health problems than their straight compatriots, says a new report from a government agency that also outlines plans to address the situation.
Men who have sex with men "bear a disproportionate burden of ill-health" in three areas, says the Public Health England report, released Friday. "These are: sexual health and HIV; mental health; and the use of alcohol, drugs and tobacco."
One in 20 adult British MSM are living with HIV, compared with one in 667 in the population overall, the document notes. MSM are twice as likely to suffer from anxiety or depression, compared to other men, and twice as likely to be dependent on alcohol. They also have higher rates of smoking, and young MSM have higher rates of drug and alcohol use than their straight peers.
The report further notes that while there has been much progress for gay people in the U.K. in recent decades, homophobic bullying and hate crimes still take place, and many older gay men have hidden their sexual identity for much of their lives.
Public Health England intends to address the problems of sexual health, mental health, and substance use in ways that take into account the various stages of men's lives. "Our overall vision is that all gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (MSM) in England will enjoy long healthy lives, have respectful and fulfilling social and sexual relationships, within which the annual number of new HIV infections will be significantly reduced," says the document.
The agency's plans include collecting additional data on MSM and supporting education and prevention programs and other appropriate interventions, plus promoting inclusivity and diversity. Two other documents, one further exploring the scope of the problem and another laying out an implementation plan for solutions, will follow this one.