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"Gay men and their proclivities can lead to STI’s"

"I have had a few experiences in healthcare where I didn’t really feel like I was receiving proper care because I was gay. It felt like, each time, my gay identity became the crux of what the provider would focus on for the entirety of the visit. I would go to my primary care doctor and student health centers for reasons that had nothing to do with my sexuality…yet it always felt like their ability to provide care circled back to it.

One of the experiences that has stood out to me was my experience with student health during my undergraduate. One day I had a sore throat for a few days, very swollen tonsils, with anterior cervical lymph node swelling. I was worried because there was a mono thing going around on campus, like 5 or 6 of my friends had mono. So I talked to my friends and they told me that all they had to do was go to student health, get a finger prick, and they will let you know if you are positive or not. At the time I was in the middle of residence life training, so it was important for me to know whether or not I had to report a positive result to my boss. I made an appointment.

I went to student health, I met with the internist and I answered all of her regular questions. I told her about my sore throat and symptoms and she said how she would check me out for mono or strep. Then, I filled out a prescreening questionnaire that included sexual health and I answered *sexually active* *sex with men* *monogamous* and *safe sex practices*. All of which were answers that definitely should not have rung a bell, especially during a mono outbreak on campus. But…they did. When she finished reading the questionnaire, she then said to me, ‘I actually just read your questionnaire and based on your answers I am pretty sure that you have an STI in your throat.’ And I was like…what? I was immediately so embarrassed. And then she said, ‘gay men and their proclivities can lead to STI’s.’ In my head I was like…well you aren’t wrong necessarily but why just gay men? Anyone having sex can get an STI. And then I referred to my medical background recalling that 90% of pharyngitis diagnoses are viral and, of the 10% that are bacterial, 90% are Group A Strep. So not only did this provider skip 99% of the most common diagnoses but I wasn’t presenting with any of the symptoms I would have had were it an STI in my throat. No fever. No exudates. Yet, she still put me through STI testing. She made me get a throat swab and a blood culture.

A few days went by and it obviously all came back negative. She called me and said, ‘Wow I really thought it was going to be an STI.’ I responded by saying, ‘can I have the mono fingerpick test now?’ They did the test and it came back positive….So, that was my first really negative experience in healthcare and it resonates strongly with me to this day. It resonates so strongly because it was my first negative gay experience EVER. I probably came out 9 months prior, I had been dating my boyfriend for a little while. I had such a wonderfully accepting family and friend group. I worked in residence life which had a really prominent LGBTQ+ presence at, honestly, a very LGBTQ+ institution. They literally called it ‘Seldom Straight University’, everyone there was gay! For all of these reasons, I was so taken aback that my first negative experience would be in healthcare. My healthcare provider’s first supposition was that I had an STI, because I was gay.

Due to this experience and others, I think queer visibility in medicine is such an important topic to highlight and I hope to be a part of the movement that is able to push toward more education around LGBTQ centered healthcare. It is important to recognize how it may, or very well may not, differ from the standards of care we experience today." - Jesse | Boston, MA (he/him/his)


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