It should come as no surprise that even in this day and age of apps, gay saunas (or bathhouses) are still frequently used by gay and bisexual men. The men who use saunas come from all different ages, backgrounds and body sizes. Some like to use saunas as a way for a quickie, other like to use them to connect with other men. Some have even found love through them. 

However, we can't ignore that some gay and bisexual men can get a little too excited and not look after their health while attending a sauna. We at GMFA have heard reports of men collapsing from dehydration or overuse of drugs. Some men have passed out only to wake up to men assaulting them. And lots of gay and bisexual men have told us that they forget themselves in the moment, whether under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and engage in unprotected sex.

So here's some tips from GMFA guide to surviving a sauna. 

Use condoms and lube

Using condoms while having sex is one of the best ways to stop the transmission of HIV and STIs. Make sure you use plenty of water-based lube to make sure the condom doesn’t rip during sex. If you’re into long sessions, or engaging in group sex, make sure you change the condom every 30 minutes or so and with every new partner. 

Take breaks

If you are using saunas while drunk or on drugs then it’s best to pace yourself. Make sure you take ‘time-outs’ to gather yourself so you don’t pass out or engage in riskier sex.  

Drink water

Saunas are hot, steamy places. If you have been out drinking before you use them it’s likely that you will already be dehydrated before entering the sauna. Make sure you drink plenty of water because if you pass out while dehydrated this can lead to severe health problems. 

Be in control and know your limits

It’s up to you to have the sex that you want. Never feel pressured into having sex that you don’t want to. If you are high on drugs or have drunk lots of alcohol then it’s likely your decision making will be skewed a bit. The best way stop yourself from engaging in riskier sex under the influence of alcohol or drugs is to know your limits regarding how much you drink or the amount of drugs you take. Be in control.

Look out for others

As much as we’d like to not see people use saunas drunk or high on drugs, it happens. If you see someone passed out in a sauna alert a staff member who will be trained to look after them. A caring attitude towards others could stop someone from engaging in a sex act when they may not be fully aware what they are doing. 

And finally, enjoy yourself

Never let anyone shame you or make you feel guilty because you use a sauna. As long as you play safe, know the facts and are in control then you can do pretty much anything and anyone you like.


If you've had unprotected sex

PEP

We know most gay men use condoms most of the time or are on PrEP. But accidents do happen. If you believe that you have put yourself at risk of HIV then PEP is a month long course of tablets, which is available from your nearest GUM clinic or A&E department. PEP can stop you from becoming positive but you need to start taking it as soon as possible and definitely within 72 hours after unprotected sex. For more information on PEP, visit www.gmfa.org.uk/pep.

HIV testing

No matter what type of sex you engage in, it is recommended that all sexually active men test for HIV and STIs at least once a year. If you engage in unprotected sex on a frequent basis then you should test every few months. It takes roughly four weeks for HIV to show up in a test. 

For more information or to find a GUM clinic, visit www.gmfa.org.uk/clinics. 

HIV-positive

If you living with HIV, the best thing you can do to stop the spread of HIV is to continue taking your medication. A study showed that HIV transmission from HIV-positive men with an undetectable viral load is zero, meaning people living with HIV and are undetectable cannot pass on the virus sexually.

For more information on HIV-undetectable, visit www.gmfa.org.uk/hiv-undetectable. 

If you’ve been the victim of sexual abuse there are people out there who can help.

GALOP, the LGBT+ anti-violence charity, will listen to you, offer counselling, and can even help you report any crime against you, as well as advocate on your behalf. You can reach them on 0207 704 2040.

You may also find it helpful to read the LGBT Foundation’s guidance for gay and bisexual men who have been affected by sexual assault, available as a PDF at https://lgbt.foundation/downloads/153 through their website at www.lgbt.foundation.

Survivors UK can talk to you via their website at www.survivorsuk.org, by SMS on 020 33221860, or via Whatsapp on 07491816064. They can even provide assistance through an Independent Sexual Violence Advisor if you so choose.