Top Vaccination Recommendations for Men Who Have Sex with Men

Mar 19, 2024

For men who have sex with men (AKA our community), life is a mix of vibrant community and unique health challenges. While everyone faces risks, men who have sex with men (MSM) confront a particular set of health issues that necessitate special care. 

But let’s be real, looking out for each other is what this community does best. So let’s dive into why vaccinations are the go-to way for protecting not just oneself but also the larger MSM community.

A vaccinated gay man with abs, wearing a jockstrap and jeans.

Risks and Responsibilities: Making a Positive Impact in the Men Who Have Sex with Men (gay) community

Being gay comes with increased health risks but also shared responsibilities. Vaccination isn’t just about the individual; it’s about safeguarding the community. By getting those shots, you’re doing your part to make the MSM community a safer, healthier place.

What are we most at risk of and how can you protect yourself?

Hepatitis A

Perhaps you’ve heard of this pesky little infection. We’re gonna tell you what it is, why you should protect yourself with a vaccine, and what could happen if you don’t. 

Hepatitis is A an infection targeting your liver and caused by the Hepatitis A virus. 

You heard that right… if you catch Hepatits A your liver (which you need, and allows affords you a great night out on the town with your friends) will be affected. 

What Happens if You Catch Hepatitis A?

Imagine the worst stomach flu you’ve ever had, then multiply it by 1,000. You’re nauseous all the time, you can barely eat, and you’re so tired that getting out of bed feels like climbing a mountain. 

And the jaundice? Your skin and eyes turn a yellow shade that no filter can fix. So your instagram shots instantly become your worst nightmare. 

You will begin to look like Lisa Simpson and the awful color of your skin is like walking around wearing a sign that says, “I feel as awful as I look.”

But, luckily, you can prevent this an ensure you continue to look as fabulous as Britney Spears the day she got out of her conservatorship. 

The Hep A vaccination, it’s Side Effects, and what to expect when you get vaccinated

The Hepatitis A vaccine is given as two shots. Side effects are mostly mild—think of it as a little body ache, perhaps a low-grade fever, but way better than the alternative.

Your insurance should cover this vaccination as a preventative health measure, and you can easily get booked in for the vaccination by calling your GP.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if that were the only thing we had to worry about? Unfortunately, it isn’t but we’ve got you covered. 

Hepatitis B and the MSM community

Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B may both sound like far-off planets in the health galaxy, but they’re distinct in how they affect you. Hepatitis A is like that reckless friend who crashes your party, messes up your place, and then usually leaves—meaning, it’s typically short-term and doesn’t lead to chronic illness. Your liver recovers, but you’ll feel awful during the ordeal. 

Hepatitis B, on the other hand, is more like a squatter who could potentially set up camp in your liver for the long haul. It’s sneakier and can become chronic, leading to serious issues like liver damage or even cancer down the line. 

While Hepatitis A is usually contracted through contaminated food or water, Hepatitis B is more often spread through blood, semen, or other bodily fluids. Both are not guests you want at your internal party, so vaccines are your bouncers, helping keep these unwanted visitors at bay.

What Happens if You Catch Hepatitis B?

Imagine walking around with a ticking time bomb inside you that you don’t even know about. That’s Hepatitis B. One day you’re fine, and the next, you’re doubled over in pain, nauseous, and so fatigued that even a coffee IV wouldn’t help. Your liver swells, and in the worst-case scenario, you’re looking at long-term liver damage or even cancer. 

Getting the Hep B vaccination

The Hepatitis B vaccine is a series of three shots. Side effects are generally mild—a sore arm, maybe a little fever for a day or two.

Do yourself a favor and get the Hep B vaccine. You will thank yourself in the long run because our chances of catching Hep B are much higher than our heterosexual counterparts. 

Now, we’ve got a serious questions. Do you like cauliflower? Perhaps yes, since it is light and an excellent side dish before bottoming (it’s high in fiber so the water will run clearer faster).

But, we can all agree that if our genitals were covered in cauliflower-like spots any partner we encounter would run out of our apartment screaming like a straight man who feels his heterosexuality is threatened. 

This nightmare isn’t only a hoax, its a reality for some people. 

Enter HPV. 

What is HPV and how does it affect men who have sex with men?

Human Papillomavirus, commonly known as HPV, is like that ubiquitous party guest who seems to know everyone but brings along some unwanted drama. Sure, HPV is common and many people will encounter it at some point in their lives, but for men who have sex with men, the stakes are a bit higher. 

Imagine discovering what you think is just an innocent skin bump, perhaps dismissible as an ingrown hair. Then imagine that bump starts inviting friends, and soon you’re dealing with a full-on breakout of genital warts. That’s the social embarrassment level of HPV—unwanted and tough to ignore. 

But wait, there’s more—much more. HPV doesn’t just stop at uncomfortable and awkward situations; it also has a dark side. For men who have sex with men, HPV elevates the risk of certain types of cancer, specifically anal and throat cancer. Imagine having to navigate not just warts but also the looming cloud of cancer screenings, biopsies, and the emotional stress that comes with it. 

And here’s the kicker: you could have HPV and not show any symptoms, silently transmitting it to partners. That’s why getting the HPV vaccine is like having VIP access to a much safer and drama-free life experience. Side effects from the vaccine? They’re the equivalent of a short-lived rain shower—maybe a sore arm or a mild fever—but the trade-off is a lifetime of clearer skies.

HPV Vaccination, Side Effects, and Expectations

Alright, let’s talk about the VIP ticket to a healthier, worry-free life—the HPV vaccine. Seriously, if vaccines were concerts, this one would be Taylor Swift’s Eras tour. 

The vaccine is usually just two shots, but the benefits? They’re the life-of-the-party kind that keep giving.

First off, the side effects are like the minor inconveniences of a night out—maybe a sore arm, or feeling a bit under the weather the next day. But compare that to the nightmare scenario of an HPV infection, and it’s a no-brainer. You’re trading a day or two of mild discomfort for years, even decades, of peace of mind. 

Think of it this way: you wouldn’t go to a crowded party without a VIP pass if you could help it, right? So why navigate the sexual landscape without the HPV vaccine? This vaccine is like the ultimate party favor that keeps you from the drama and the stress that HPV can bring into your life. The best part? Once you’ve got it, you’re setting up not just yourself but also your partners for a safer, happier experience.

But wait, there’s a bonus track. This vaccine doesn’t just cover one type of HPV; it’s like a Taylor’s version of the Speak now album when it comes to protection, defending against multiple strains of the virus, some of which can lead to cancer. So in one corner, you have a couple of shots with minimal side effects, and in the other, you have the risk of genital warts, and more alarmingly, potential cancer. 

Doesn’t seem like much of a choice, does it?

So go ahead, grab that VIP pass, get those shots, and dance like Beyoncé singing Church Girl knowing you’ve made a choice that protects you and the men you share your life with. Trust us, future you will be forever grateful.

But what about Monkey Pox?

Monkey pox affects men who have sex with men and it’s real, real bad

Last on our hit list, but definitely not the least concerning, is Monkeypox. This one’s like that obscure underground band you’ve never heard of until they suddenly drop a chart-busting single. It’s a rare viral infection, sure, but when it shows up, it’s all drama and headlines.

Picture this: you’re going about your day, and suddenly you’re hit with a fever that feels like your internal thermostat’s gone haywire. Then, as if you’ve landed a role in a horror flick, your body starts to erupt with painful bumps. You’re not just confined to bed; you’re quarantined, feeling like a biological hazard zone all by yourself. It’s not just your health at stake; it’s your dignity, your peace of mind, and the panic you don’t want to spread among those around you. 

Monkeypox is rare, but it’s severe, disruptive, and isolating. So while it might be the dark horse in the viral lineup, it’s one you absolutely want to stay far away from.

Is there a monkey pox vaccine?

No specific Monkeypox vaccine exists, but the smallpox vaccine provides about 85% efficacy. Side effects vary but are usually manageable.

Infections Without Vaccines: Why Testing is Critical for Men Who Have Sex with Men

Sadly, not every enemy has an antidote. Men who have sex with men also need to watch out for gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis. These can bring about painful or embarrassing symptoms—burning sensations, strange discharges, even sores. No vaccines here, but regular testing can catch them early.

And, let’s not forget HIV. It doesn’t have a cure either, but we have an in-depth guide about HIV so you can stay safe!

Safeguarding your Health and other Men Who Have Sex with Men

Vaccination and regular testing are invaluable tools. They protect you and, by extension, everyone in the community of men who have sex with men. Don’t just survive; let’s thrive together by taking these precautionary steps.

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Sean Kivi

Sean Kivi

Author

Sean Kivi holds a master's degree from the University of Nottingham in translation studies from Spanish to English. He specializes in writing about gay culture and its influence on discourse. Sean speaks Spanish fluently and focuses on translating gay-themed literature to English and analyzing the discourse to understand how our culture is universal yet distinct in countries worldwide. He has translated for authors in Mexico and completed case studies related to machismo and its influences on gay culture in Latin America.

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