There is an oft quoted claim that gay men have more sexual partners in a single year than their straight counterparts. I find this easy to believe, considering that a recent survey concludes that heterosexual men only have an average total of 14 partners in lifetime. The gay guys I know could clock up that tally in a slow month, good week or busy Sunday afternoon in the sauna!
Responsible gay men opt for a regular sexual health MOT. I usually take advantage of the pop-up clinics that appear in bars, clubs and other venues on the gay scene. With a couple of unobtrusive swabs, a few samples and a prick of blood, the job’s done and the results are efficiently text to you over the following week. It is free, quick and simple, gives you peace of mind… and more importantly ensures that you are not out there spreading the ‘love’.
Over the years, I have had the luck of the Devil. Other than a couple of infestations of crabs, I have managed to avoid any sexually transmitted diseases. That was until last year.
I initially noticed a faint burning sensation when I urinated, which got more intense over a few days until I dreaded having to take a pee. It rapidly got to the point where I couldn’t stand it any longer, phoned in sick and took myself to the drop-in clinic in the basement of Boots the Chemist in Birmingham city centre.
The brilliant Umbrella servicesprovide daily walk-in appointments, but places are limited and are offered on a first come, first served basis, so I was told to arrive as the store opened and wait in line until the clinic itself raised their shutters an hour or so later. It proved to be good advice. I arrived early as instructed and there was already a queue forming.
I was immediately struck by how attractive my fellow patients were. I suppose the more attractive you are, the more opportunities you get to catch a sexually transmitted infection.
My partner told was once cruised by a hot guy while waiting for a sexual health check-up at the Whittall Street branch but decided that the clap clinic was the last place that you wanted to pick up a guy. What else would you pick up?!
It was a long wait, made marginally more interesting by a mouse scurrying across the waiting room floor creating brief pandemonium.
For a while it looked like they were going to have to close the clinic due to health and safety concerns, but the decision was left to us patients. We were told that no vermin had been seen in the self-enclosed medical area so, if we were happy to proceed with the appointments, the clinic would remain open.
There was a resounding, “YES!!!”
All I could think was, Please God, don’t make me wait any longer! I’ve had to take a day off work already… and my cock is burning off!!
Finally, I was called to an examination room by a pleasant woman wearing a hijab. I had hoped for her handsome male college, but I suppose it is best not to be intimately examined by someone you find attractive, as the uncontrollable effects could be awkward.
The nurse explained that before she did any tests, she would have to take me through a series of questions relating to my recent sexual history.
The first question was about my sexuality, “Do you identify as heterosexual, homosexual or bi?”
“Do you engage in anal sex?”
“Do you engage in oral sex?”
A hint of a smile played at the corner of her lips.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to sound so enthusiastic,” I apologised.
The questions moved on to sexual partners.
“How many do you have on average?”
When a mate of mine was once asked this same question, he casually replied, “Well, there are three of them currently sat in the waiting room, if that’s any indication?”
I thought about it for a moment and then estimated, “Around… half a dozen?”
“I’ll put you down as ‘Six sexual partners a month’.”
“A month?!!” I spluttered, “I thought you meant a week!”
She professionally tapped this information into the computer without comment.
At least she attempted to conceal her reaction, unlike the interim doctor, covering at an Edinburgh sexual health clinic, where a good friend of mine attended an appointment to ascertain his eligibility for PrEP.
He wanted to ensure qualification for free prescriptions, so when asked how many times he had engaged in unprotected sex in the past two weeks, he guesstimated, “Between thirty and forty.”
The doctor’s eyes bugged out of her head and she gasped, “How Many?!!”
“Well… I was on holiday,” he offered, by way of explanation.
He had been to Torremolinos Bear Week, followed by a similar event in Gran Canaria. Those gigs can get busy, so much so that another mate of mine found himself trapped in a packed darkroom by a heaving barrier of flesh. The only way he could reach the exit was by dropping to all fours and crawling through people’s legs.
“I had purposely shaved a dozen or so off the total,” my Edinburgh friend told me, recalling the doctor’s shocked reaction to his tally of partners. “I didn’t want to sound like a slut.”
He certainly met the total to qualify for free PrEP…The criteria was three.
My nurse in Birmingham, continued her questions and, handing me a sheet of paper listing the continents of the world subdivided into separate regions, she asked, “Have you ever had sexual contact with anyone from any of these areas?”
I scanned the two columns of geographical regions: South Asia, East Asia, Southeast Asia, West Asia, Central Asia, North Asia, Australasia; United States and Canada, Central America, South America, Caribbean, etc.
Handing the sheet back, I simply replied, “Yes.”
The nurse gave a soft sigh and explained in a patient tone, “No, you are meant to identify which of those regions you may have had a sexual partner from.”
“Yes, I understand,” I replied. “All of them. I have very eclectic tastes and I’m a sucker for an accent.”
She shook her head and grinned, “You are refreshingly honest.”
“Why wouldn’t I be? You do this every day and have seen and heard it all, you are hardly likely to judge me. I may as well be totally upfront.”
If you are brazened enough to catch the infection, you need to be confident enough to discuss it with a professional. The STD clinic is no place to be bashful… or pick up guys, apparently.