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?




There are 23 comments

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  1. Yungobruh

    I think another part of the reason why Same Gender Loving, (SGL), men are affected by health issues at a higher rate than heterosexuals has to do with not be open with doctors. If we’re not out to our doctors, and our doctors aren’t sensitive to SGL health issues than we can’t be treated for them. Our doctors need to know that we’re SGL so the healthcare they provide us can take our lifestyle into consideration.

  2. Matt Dolan

    Wow, never thought of the issue in the way you express it. Clearly, everything you say is true. I am in health care, but not in men’s health. There are many gay/bi men in our system, but no one really out. It would be great if more gay/bi guys were in the business of safe sex education. The local AIDS organization is run by the wife of a straight guy who contracted the disease from a blood transfusion. I have done a lot for the organization, but openly gay/bi folks are not stepping up to the plate here. Really needs to change.

  3. John

    I recently graduated from Bucks County Community College for Nationally Certified EKG/Phlebotomy/ER Tech & Healthcare Providers CPR. I would love to work helping people especially people from my community LGBT! How do I apply? John

  4. sjohnson

    interesting commentary, however, the lack of gays is a moot point. i’m sure, as in other positions, gays are closeted. not all gays want to be “out”. i assure you there are plenty of “gays, albeit closeted so-called st8’s” are in said workforce.

  5. Bob

    The incidents of syphilis in the cochelea valley is extremely high and gay men need to act like MEN when confronted with a poz test result! Step up n tell the county inspector as many phone numbers as u can and let them contact those unsuspecting persons for there health as well as your own! It is all done anonymously so no reason to worry about u being the one that gave out there number. Remember be a man!! Not a coward! I recently tested poz and didn’t wait for the county, instead I contacted as many partners as I could and simply told them that I had been notified by the county and was told that a former partner had given them my number because they had had sex with me. I immediately went n got treated free of charge! THE DESERT IS BEAUTIFUL LET’S NOT SPREAD STDS ALL OVER IT, GET TESTED N GET CURED! Most of all be MEN!!!

  6. 2men

    Gay, DL, str8t—> Would help a lot if everyone with a dick would just wear a fucking condom every time you fucked… No more raw sex with strangers… It ain’t rocket science fellas.

  7. David

    I have a very supportive group that helps me here in Kansas City. My psycologyst is gay my denist is gay my caseworkde but as to my HIV doctor she is str8, but very very gay friendly and supportive, but I guess this all I have to say, but great that your doing what is needed.


  8. cliff

    I have been working with the hiv and aids community in my area for almost 3 years and the rate of hiv infection in the country is highest in men who have sex with men . The largest group is age 13 to 24 African American males . There are ways to help even if its help out at a food bank or give your free time . Make sure your friends are tested . 1.2 million people are infected in the USA. 40 % or them don’t know it.

  9. Larry

    I dont quite get it. EVERYONE today knows the risks of unprotected sex. If you, who wrote this article, think that the kids of today are not having unprotected sex….its time to get out in the clubs and take a second look. It seems that younger guys and older men believe that just because someone is “younger” he is safe to do unprotected things with. I dont believe the issue is that we dont have enough “gay” people working in health care…the simple fact that so many people are disregarding all that they know about safe sex should be more disturbing than who is working to clean up the mess after the fact. You need to get out in the trenches to see whats really happening…..sitting behind a computer screen and asking “where are the gays” seems like someone whose head is buried in the sand. The “gays” are most likely sitting in the waiting room waiting for their (str8) primary care provider to write them a prescription for their HIV treatment.

  10. Brad

    I was called in to be tested at the public health clinic in Phoenix, AZ about a year ago when someone else (I wasn’t told who) had apparently tested positive for HIV and said they had possibly put me at risk. Thankfully I tested negative, as I always have when I get my regular tests. I found out that whenever someone tests positive in thier clinic, they try to notify everyone that they have had sexual contact with that they may have been exposed and are encouraged to come in for free testing (wow what a fantastic pro-active approach!) The great thing is that the guy who administered all the tests and questioned me about my sexual habits was obviously a gay man, and it made it that much easier to talk candidly with him.

  11. murphy

    Great article and I feel your frustration. Clearly the lack of LGBT and SGL (to references that drive me nuts) people working in the health industry and especially the STD side of the industry might have more to do with complancancy than the fear of being “out” but one fact remains. Doctors, specifically gay doctors (and there are many) who refuse to be open about there lifestyle must begin the process of openness. How do I know this? I was in a decade long relationship with an er doc who was and still is closeted because of pier pressure. Yep, homophobia rules in medical administration, on the floor and especially with the most important person you might have interface with…Your physician.

  12. Tom

    Thanks for raising this point Stephan. I am a gay man working in the field of HIV prevention. It is always a bit strange and uncomfortable being in a room full of straight people who are well-meaning, but don’t “get it.” The number of times I’ve heard “Don’t gay men know better by now” said by my colleagues astonishes me.

  13. Rawandready

    It is extremely important that the gay men need to step up and take a stronger stance in the community not only in the health field but in the whole community. Often when I am talking with gays in this community they are afraid of the repercussions of standing up and speaking out. Rejection does play a huge part of our mental health that leads to looking for love in all the wrong places and with the wrong things.

    When we learn to respect each other and focus on the important issues dealing with the gay community the government will be forced to recognize not only our health issues but our social ones as well.

  14. greg

    After being involved in HIV counseling and testing since 1987 (when I was diagnosed), to the last 16 years working in the county std clinic, i am not optimistic. In fact i fully expect the time will come when men who sex with other men, will be hiv positive. Laudable as prevention efforts have been, thing happen in life’ fluids are exchanged, condoms break, partners have partners, people lie. 1800 positives here are not in care! Wish I could do more and was more optimistic. We hear, “I test every 3 months.” No one has ever said, “I keep reducing my risks.”

  15. BryBry

    Note to Scott: Stephan’s numbers are given as Percentages, not exact numbers. i say this to say that it could be possible that the actual number of straight guys with STDs, health issues, etc could be larger than the actual number of gay guys. But notice, Stephan is speaking in percentages, and those percentages are accurate, based on the population that was taken into consideration.

  16. riobob

    Very interesting, How does one become involved. I have a BA and have worked as a counselor with Families, mostly with abused children. Love some involvement in my area.
    Willing and able to contribute my time and services

  17. stephan

    Riobob – I would start by searching for the local agencies that provide STD/HIV related services and look at job postings in your local and state health department.

    Sjohnson, I am struck by your comment: “gays are closeted. not all gays want to be “out”” and I think it is true – but the point is far from moot!! – Consider: those that are in this position might as well be well meaning heterosexuals. As a closeted man in an origination how much of a voice for the community can you really be? There is only so far you could go in taking a stance without the risk of ‘outing’ yourself.

    Tom, it is great (and sad) to hear your experience, I can assure you that comments such as you report are not just uttered locally or limited to rural agencies.

    Your comment “The number of times I’ve heard “Don’t gay men know better by now” said by my colleagues astonishes me.” is one that could be by just about anyone in the ‘industry’ from New York City to Florida, and from San Francisco to Dallas.

  18. scott

    i just sayin that gays for yrs were blamed for the AIDS epidemic and we are NOT the ones who started it. 2 facts are know. it started inb the 1920’s and it originated from monkeys-then to hetero humans in africa. its a fact if you believe it or not.

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