Gay Men's Health Issues Surpass AIDS

NEW YORK-Within the last 20 years, health officials have focused the majority of their time and funding for gay health on AIDS. Advocates within the homosexual community want to see the reach of these efforts expanded now that AIDS is better understood.

With powerful drug combinations, educational campaigns, and a general awareness of HIV and AIDS, the public is more prepared to fight the battle against this ravaging virus. Yet there are many other diseases and health issues that gay men face each day. They need help learning more about hepatitis C, syphilis, substance abuse, domestic abuse, and mental health.

David Ferguson, and HIV prevention specialist at the Utah AIDS Foundation said hepatitis, chronic fatigue, and prostate cancer also heavily affect those in the gay community. However, he said it was also important to use funding to research psychological issues many gay men experience. The lack of acceptance in society may push many gay men to risky behavior. They often experience low self-esteem and feelings of isolation.

To look at these other issues, many HIV programs have decided to broaden their reach. For example, the SafeGuards Gay Men's Health Project in Philadelphia is now offering workshops for men to learn to defend themselves against an attack. They have also had vaccination campaigns to fight hepatitis A and B. They distribute information about syphilis via the Internet as well.

Smoking is yet another health issue hitting the gay community. A study published in The American Journal of Public Health reported 47.8% of gay men were smokers. This is more than one and a half times the national average for all men. A different study from the same journal found gay men are more prone to major depression also.

For gay men living in low-income areas, finding basic healthcare can be challenging. Finding resources to tackle these extra problems can be nearly impossible.

Also, there are men who sleep with men who do not consider themselves gay. They often overlook gay outreach programs for health issues because they do not consider themselves homosexual.

With these outlying issues, homosexual health advocates are working to bring more attention to other issues surrounding homosexual life besides the AIDS virus. A recent federal report, Healthy People 2010, also outlined the need for more research into the health needs of those with alternative sexual orientations.

Information from www.nytimes.com

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