Health advice

Erectile dysfunction in gay and bisexual men

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If you’re a gay or bisexual man and you have symptoms of ED, this page will go through some of the concerns and feelings that you may be experiencing. We will also link to other places where you can get further information and support.

Erection problems can affect all men, regardless of their sexuality. Erectile dysfunction (ED) is very common, particularly as men get older, and isn’t usually anything to worry about.1 If you have symptoms of ED there are treatments and support available that can help.

Some people may find it difficult talking to a health professional about their health, especially if the problem is related to your sex life. But for gay and bisexual men, or men who have sex with men, this may be even more difficult. There is some research to show that gay and bisexual men may be more likely to have poorer experiences of using healthcare services in the United Kingdom than heterosexual people.2,3

What can cause ED?

ED can be caused by many things including being tired, depressed, overweight or having treatment for some types of cancer.1

Drinking too much alcohol and taking recreational drugs also increases your risk of having erection problems. Try to reduce the amount of alcohol you drink. National guidelines say not to drink more than 14 units of alcohol a week, which is about six pints of beer a week.4 Read more about what can cause erectile dysfunction.

What treatments can I get for ED?

If you have problems getting or keeping an erection you should talk to your GP about what treatment and support is available for you. You might be offered medication such as Viagra or sildenafil, other treatments such as vacuum pumps and injections, or you might be offered a combination of treatments. Read more about the different treatment options.

If you have treatment for ED, such as medication, remember that this won’t protect you against sexually transmitted infections (STI). It’s important to use a condom, especially with someone you don’t know very well.

ED and your relationships

A lot of the feelings that men experience when they have ED, such as frustration, anger or disappointment, are often the same for all men. But if you’re gay or bisexual, or a man who has sex with men, you may have additional thoughts or concerns about how ED may affect you. 5,6

If you have a partner, you may be worried about how ED will affect your relationship. Your partner might be dealing with their own feelings and emotions too. It can help to talk about things together.

If you’re single, or thinking about dating, you might worry about how ED will affect new relationships and how you’ll explain ED to someone you don’t know very well. It’s normal to feel this way, but remember that there is support and help available.

Talking to health professionals about ED

If you’re gay or bisexual and you’ve had a difficult experience talking to healthcare professionals in the past, you may feel concerned about how to bring up the subject of ED with your GP or a pharmacist.

Remember, it’s your decision whether or not to talk about your sexuality. Health professionals are trained in equality and should provide the same care and support to everyone, regardless of sexuality.

If you feel like you’re not getting the right care, you can complain. You can raise concerns and make formal complaints with your GP practice. Or you can make a complaint through the NHS by contacting the Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS). There are also charities such as Stonewall and LGBT foundation that can give advice and support about these types of issues.

HIV and erectile dysfunction

HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) can affect anyone, regardless of sexuality. But gay and bisexual men are most likely to be affected by HIV.10

If you have HIV and you’re experiencing erection problems, you can still take medicine for both HIV and ED. But your doctor may suggest you take a smaller dose of ED medication if you’re already taking medication for HIV (antiretroviral drugs).7,8 This is because some HIV medications can react with other medicines, including treatment for ED, which may cause serious side effects.9

Always talk to your doctor or a pharmacist if you’re not sure about the medication you’re taking or if you have concerns about if it’s safe to take different medications at the same time. If you’re experiencing serious side effects, contact your doctor straight away or go to your nearest accident and emergency (A&E). Read more about different treatment options for managing ED.

Where can I get further support and information?

As well as talking to your GP for information and support, there are also a number of organisations and charities offering support and information.

LGBT Foundation
0345 330 3030
Information and support for LGBT people.

NHS website
Information about erectile dysfunction, treatment options and support.

Prostate Cancer UK
0800 074 8383
Information and support for gay and bisexual men who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer, including information about erection problems after treatment.

Sexual Advice Association
Information for men about erectile dysfunction, including gay and bisexual men.

0800 050 2020
Support and information about gay rights.

The gay men’s health project
Information for gay and bisexual men, including information about erection problems.

  1. Erectile dysfunction (impotence) | | Published November 13, 2017 | Accessed September 4, 2020.
  2. Zeeman L, Sherriff N, Browne K, et al | A review of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex (LGBTI) health and healthcare inequalities | Eur J Public Health. 2019;29(5):974-980 | doi:10.1093/eurpub/cky226
  3. Hulbert-Williams NJ, Plumpton CO, Flowers P, et al | The cancer care experiences of gay, lesbian and bisexual patients: A secondary analysis of data from the UK Cancer Patient Experience Survey | Eur J Cancer Care (Engl) | 2017;26(4):e12670 | doi:10.1111/ecc.12670
  4. Drinkaware Home | Accessed September 4, 2020.
  5. Ussher JM, Perz J, Rose D, et al | Threat of Sexual Disqualification: The Consequences of Erectile Dysfunction and Other Sexual Changes for Gay and Bisexual Men With Prostate Cancer | Arch Sex Behav | 2017;46(7):2043-2057 | doi:10.1007/s10508-016-0728-0
  6. Vansintejan J, Vandevoorde J, Devroey D | The GAy MEn Sex StudieS: erectile dysfunction among Belgian gay men | Int J Gen Med | 2013;6:527-534 | doi:10.2147/IJGM.S45783
  7. Viagra 100 mg film-coated tablets - Summary of Product Characteristics (SmPC) - (emc) | Accessed September 4, 2020.
  8. Nandwani R, Gourlay Y | Possible interaction between sildenafil and HIV combination therapy | The Lancet | 1999;353(9155):840 | doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(99)90041-7
  9. Liverpool HIV Interactions | Accessed September 4, 2020.
  10. HIV statistics | Terrence Higgins Trust | Accessed September 25, 2020.

Published: October 2022
Next review: October 2024
Reviewed by: Mital Thakrar, Pharmacist

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