Being attracted to both men and women doesn't necessarily mean that a person will have more sexual partners. But bisexual individuals, especially males, are facing higher risk for sexually transmitted disease than in the past.
According to the most recent data from the Center for Disease Control, bisexual and gay males account for 83 percent of syphilis cases where the sexual partner is known. That comes with a rise in the disease’s rates nationally, from an all-time low of 2.1 cases per 100,000 people in 2000 to 5.3 cases per 100,000 people in 2013.
According to Mara Gambineri, the communications director for the Florida Department of Health, the local area has been slightly better than the state itself at staying healthy through syphilis cases. For their 2016 study of in-state cases by gender of sex partners, 3.9 percent claimed both male and female sex partners for Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties.
For the state as a whole, five percent of all respondents with the STI claimed both male and female partners. Gambineri said that the male and female individuals did not have to self-identify as bisexuals but did say they had both sexes as partners.
But it’s not just Syphilis rates that are on the rise. Men who have sex with both have higher rates than heterosexual males when it comes to the human papillomavirus (22 percent to 3 percent,) Gonorrhea (11 percent to 2 percent) and Herpes (5 percent to 3 percent).
Epidemiologist for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention William Jeffries IV said in his research “Beyond the Bisexual Bridge” that males who have sex with both male and female partners face different risk factors because of their identity. Those include, according to him: “unprotected sex, early sexual debut, forced sexual encounters, increased numbers of sexual partners, substance use, exchange sex, risk behaviors of their male and female partners and pregnancy-related considerations.”
“These factors uniquely shape MSMW’s vulnerability to HIV/STIs and other sexual health problems,” Jefferies said. “Anti-bisexual sentiment, socioeconomic marginalization, culturally specific masculine ideologies, and sexual identity can negatively influence their sexual partnerships and likelihood of disease acquisition.”
Jefferies said that biphobia can often be a reason why members of community have lower rates for getting tested and often higher rates for drug use and amount of sexual partners. He also pointed out that because some people will call bi individuals “a closeted gay person” or say their identity is not real, it causes people to try and prove their sexuality by having more sex with more partners.
Their identity can also shape how willing they are to getting help, as a lack of an affirming community can hurt bisexual individuals.
“MSMW’s sexual identities have important sexual health implications,” Jefferies said. “ MSMW largely lack access to a well-defined bisexual community and are less likely than MSM to participate in the gay community.In the absence of sexually affirmative communities, MSMW’s sexual identities may reflect how they wish others to perceive them and may influence MSMW’s receptiveness to public health interventions..”
The CDC recommends that those who are sexually active regardless of partner should regularly be screened for STIs and always use a condom. The organization also recommends being open with your doctor about your sexual history.
“Sexual health promotion for MSMW should not be limited to HIV/STI prevention alone,”Jefferies writes in his study “Recognition of MSMW’s unique sexual and social experiences can lay the foundation necessary for ensuring that these men have healthy and fulfilling sexual experiences.”
This is a part of our Bisexual Visibility Week special package. Check out sfgn.com/2017biissue daily for new stories.