Health inequalities experienced by men who have sex with men (MSM) are being targeted under plans announced by PHE.
The plan, Promoting the health and wellbeing of gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men, will concentrate on three key areas of health and wellbeing in equalities: sexual health and HIV; mental health; and consumption of drugs, alcohol and tobacco products. Figures released by PHE show that 13 per cent of MSM reported using at least one class A drug in the last year, compared with five per cent of heterosexual men, as well as MSM being twice as likely to be dependent on alcohol as heterosexuals.
Research has shown that MSM are also twice as likely to experience mental health conditions such as depression, and accounted for 43,500 cases of HIV in the UK in 2013, out of a total of 107,800. This is despite MSM making up just 2.6 per cent of the population. As a result of these inequalities, MSM have higher rates of cardiovascular disease, asthma, and diabetes.
Professor Jane Anderson, expert advisor on HIV, sexual health and reproductive health at Public Health England said: 'Men who have sex with men are amongst those most affected by HIV and other sexually transmitted infections in the UK, and numbers continue to rise. If we are to make a real impact on the HIV epidemic and improve sexual health it is crucial that we tackle the wider determinants of health set out in this framework.'
The plan highlights a lack of willingness to seek healthcare in the MSM community, suggesting that they are unwilling to reveal their sexuality.
Professor Kevin Fenton, director of health and wellbeing at PHE said: 'Despite vast improvements in social acceptance over the years, lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people continue to face discrimination. As a result, this community faces barriers in accessing health services, and remain disproportionately burdened with ill-health.'
The plan seeks to address these inequalities in a number of ways, including reducing the number of new HIV infections, and closing the gap in self-reported mental ill health between MSM and the general male population. PHE has also stated that reducing the proportion of MSM who drink and report using restricted substances, as well as reducing smoking prevalence among MSM, are priorities.
Dr Fenton added: 'This structured programme of action will work with and support the public health system, private and third sector organisations to actively respond to the needs of these communities locally.'