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Depression: Louganis and Allen to Speak at Forums in New York, San Francisco

By John S. James

October 8, 2004

Summary: On October 11 in New York and October 27 in San Francisco, diver Greg Louganis and actor Chad Allen will speak at a forum to raise awareness of depression in the gay community.

Diver Greg Louganis and actor Chad Allen will talk about their struggles with depression at public forums in New York (October 11) and in San Francisco (October 27), to raise awareness of the problem in the gay community. Men who have sex with men may be three times as likely as others to experience depression in their lifetime. These forums are sponsored by Gay and Lesbian Medical Association, the Association of Gay and Lesbian Psychiatrists, and GlaxoSmithKline.

The program, "Talk About It: Coming Out About Depression," is bringing both speakers to both events:

Comment: Why Depression Is More Important Than Generally Realized

Increasing evidence suggests that depression can seriously increase progression of HIV and other diseases directly through biological mechanisms (not only indirectly, such as by interfering with adherence or social support). Chronic anxiety also appears to greatly increase disease progression, probably through different biochemical pathways. Medical care for these mental conditions may reduce progression (we do not have definitive data yet). AIDS Treatment News has published descriptions of new scientific findings twice in the past year:

This matter has not had the attention it deserves, because of a philosophical bias in Western culture toward seeing the "mental" world as a ghostly reality separate from the physical body. In fact, depression and anxiety exist as biochemical changes in the body. It is no surprise that evolution could produce a level of anxiety that is unhealthy, because we needed fear to survive throughout human development. Why the biochemistry of serious depression could be selected by evolution is much less clear, and a great diversity of theories has been proposed.

The immediate concern is that mental health care is usually the first to go when funding for medical treatment is cut. Also, if we understood how depression and anxiety (the biochemical changes that are most easily recognized by their mental effects) act to speed disease progression, we might find new mechanisms for pharmaceutical intervention to slow disease development and increase overall health.

Copyright 2004 by John S. James. Permission granted for noncommercial reproduction, provided that our address and phone number are included if more than short quotations are used.

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