Health : Where Are The Gays?
The incidence of many infections and diseases for Gay men is significantly higher than the incidence of these same health concerns in our heterosexual brothers. There are many reasons why, factors such as the “Social Determinants of Health” (which over simplified means that Homophobia, stigma, and discrimination affect our physical and mental health), anal sex (which carries a greater risk for the transmission of a variety of infections), Communal viral load, and having multiple male partners increase the possibility of infection. Our health concerns are not just about infections, A study published in 2009 compared gay, lesbian, and bisexual young adults who experienced strong rejection from their families with their peers who had more supportive families. The researchers found that those who experienced stronger rejection were 8.4 times more likely to have tried to commit suicide, 5.9 time more likely to report high levels of depression, 3.4 times more likely to have used drugs, and 3.4 time more likely to have ‘risky sex’.
Ever heard the saying “It takes one to know one”?
For over 10 years now I have been working with federal, state, and local entities in an effort reduce the rates of STDs and HIV in gay men. During this time the most striking fact that I have come across (and there are many) is the embarrassing lack of gay men that are working within these governmental organizations, organizations charged with helping gay men and men who have sex with men.
My personal experience is that after working with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for about 7 years (in an indirectly funded / unofficial / official relationship) I can only remember working with two ‘out’ gay men employed by the Division of STD Prevention and those two employees are assignees working out in the field, not in the CDC Atlanta office. There may be others but if there are, I cannot think of who they would be.
This lack of diversity is not unique in public health; it trickles down into every health department (State and City) and into every county office.
The same is true for many of the HIV/AIDS non-profits around the country, many of these organizations that were once run by gay men are now being run by heterosexual women.
Now don’t get it twisted, I do not hold these organizations fully responsible for their lack of diversity. We as gay men should be beating down their doors, regardless of the barriers in place.
It’s true, working for Federally funded public health is difficult work, that is often thankless, often makes no sense and regularly punishes its employees for doing the right thing, but someone must do it, why not those that are members of the community that have the greatest need?
So my question to you is; Where are the gays?