Press release

PHE action plan tackles health inequalities for men who have sex with men

PHE has today launched an action plan to address the health and wellbeing inequalities affecting gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (MSM).


The plan focuses on 3 interrelated areas in which MSM are disproportionately burdened with ill-health: sexual health and HIV (Human immunodeficiency virus), mental health and in the use of alcohol, drugs and tobacco.

Research shows that MSM:

  • continue to be the group most affected by HIV infection
  • are twice as likely to be depressed or anxious compared with other men
  • are twice as likely to be dependent on alcohol compared with the rest of the male population and smoking rates are higher
  • have higher rates of cardio vascular disease (CVD), asthma and diabetes
  • are less likely to seek help from health and social care services, and reveal their sexual identity to those providing their care

Determinants for improving inequalities include:

  • reducing the number of new HIV infections
  • closing the gap in self-reported mental ill health between MSM and the general male population
  • reducing the proportion of MSM who are drinking above lower risk levels and reporting use of harmful substances
  • reducing smoking prevalence amongst MSM

Professor Kevin Fenton, Director of Health and Wellbeing at Public Health England 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.

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.

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.


Notes to Editors

The action plan, titled ‘Promoting the health and wellbeing of gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men’, is the first of its kind from a national body. It consolidates data from a PHE report published in July 2014 that establishes the evidence base for the health inequalities affecting MSM. It sets out plans for the next 18 months to develop data, reduce inequalities in local areas and address the wider causes, working with and supporting local and national government, the NHS and relevant third sector organisations.

Components of the action plan include:

  • a range of projects with the National LGBT Partnership, including a new set of Healthy Living resources for trans people, based on evidence from the LGB&T companion document to the Public Health Outcomes Framework.
  • new data publications on drug use in 2015: to accompany continuing work with the public health system on sexually transmitted infections and HIV data among gay and bisexual men
  • improved data collection on sexual orientation monitoring in health care with NHS England, and with the Office of National Statistics to increase the granularity of data in the outcome indicators
  • a set of projects funded by the MAC AIDS Foundation, to expand data to support black and minority gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (BME MSM). We are working with De Montford University to fully evaluate these to help build the evidence base in a UK context

The action plan is being launched alongside a new programme of work which explores ‘The health and wellbeing of black and minority ethnic gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men’ (BME MSM). The project aims to reinvigorate action and increase understanding of BME MSM identity, health and social care needs among professionals and the public.

Evidence shows that:

  • just 7% of black gay and bisexual men have tested for any sexually transmitted infection compared to 26% of white gay and bisexual men
  • a third of Asian men and mixed ethnicity men have experienced domestic abuse since the age of 16 compared to 1 in 5 of white gay and bisexual men

This group also has significantly higher rates of suicide, self-harm and mental illness.

The action plan is being launched at the Improving the Health and Wellbeing of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans People and Communities conference, on Wednesday 4 February 2015.

Public Health England exists to protect and improve the nation’s health and wellbeing, and reduce health inequalities. It does this through world-class science, knowledge and intelligence, advocacy, partnerships and the delivery of specialist public health services. PHE is an operationally autonomous executive agency of the Department of Health. Website: Twitter: @PHE_uk, Facebook:

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PHE action plan tackles health inequalities for MSM (media version with references) (PDF, 226KB, 4 pages)

Published 4 February 2015