North Carolina: Summit to Address Gay Men's Health
April 24, 2003
More than 300 people are expected to attend the third national Gay Men's Health Summit in Raleigh, N.C., May 7-11. Previous conferences, held in Boulder, Colo., attracted 300 and 500 people each.Adapted from:
Where does HIV/AIDS fit on the spectrum of gay men's health issues in 2003? "It's certainly there, particularly when you find folks who think it's OK to have unsafe sex," said summit participant Wayne Wilson, a community program manager in HIV prevention at Family Health International in Research Triangle Park. "Some of the younger kids in particular think if you get HIV it's OK, because it's treatable, or some people think it's curable."
"The way I would put it is an AIDS-centric approach to working with gay men may be the problem rather than the solution," said Eric Rofes, coordinator of the 11-member collective organizing the conference and a professor of education at Humboldt State University in California. "When you consistently approach a stigmatized population with concern about one specific health issue and one specific virus, it on some level encourages them to be less concerned about other challenges. So, for example, if you raise a population of young gay men with the repeated idea that AIDS is the end of the world and it's going to get them, how dangerous do they consider other things like syphilis, like substance abuse, like violence?"
"The rise in new HIV infections is certainly a concern," said Erik Libbey, gay health coordinator at AIDS Rochester Inc. and a summit participant. "So in a gathering such as the Gay Men's Health Summit it is our hope that as we start to expand the definition of what a 'healthy gay man' is, men will feel empowered to take control over their own well being including concerns about HIV/AIDS."
Rofes said, "The way AIDS prevention goes about its work is still pretty much what came out of the 1983-85 crisis period. Unfortunately if you still use messages that powerfully impacted people almost 20 years ago, it may not impact them the same way today. ... I would say men need some education about their bodies and their sexual practices as a starting point."
Herald-Sun (Durham, N.C.)
04.17.03; Mark Schultz