Gay Men's Health: How It's Unique and Why it Matters

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I wrote in 2008, the Advocate Guide to Gay Men's Health and Wellness. Many of my colleagues said, why are you writing a Gay men's health book? It's just men's health book. And I said, it's not, it's a different. And I agree. Preventative health for everyone is the same, and especially if you're going to talk about men, you want to talk about prevention of heart disease.

You want to talk prevention of cancer, particularly prostrate cancer, but I wanted to talk about the other things that affect gay man at higher rate. And that would be HIV, STDs, syphilis. Syphilis rates for the last 7 years have gone up incrementally among gay men. This is not a coincidence, and I think a lot of men didn't understand how do you get syphilis.

A lot of STDs are even transmitted through kissing and just oral sex. Many men didn't even know that. They thought that they have to have unprotected, condomless sex to get an STD, and that's just absolutely wrong. If you think about it going right back to the beginning, when you learned that you're gay, you're probably having the first thing quickly when you're child.

And you probably if you grow up in my generation, denied that and tried to become heterosexual, and thought about dating, and probably getting engaged, which I did, but I never got married. But I knew all along that I was probably gay. And I think a lot of men go through that period where they're not sure what this is, or they're ashamed, whether it's religious problem, or their family's influence.

And realistically, if you think about it, you grow up like an orphan because you're not like your parents. When you look at your parents, they were heterosexual, they were married, they had children, and you're not like that, so you have have nothing to identify with. So a lot of men live in that closet, and if you're fortunate you come out of that closet, you live a gay life, and may be become well adjusted, a lot of men don't do that, and they live with that shame, that leads to higher rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide.

It also leads to higher rates of alcohol and drug dependency. High rates of smoking, these are all dis-proportionally affecting gay people, even lesbians, but really, I was looking at gay man and seeing these rates, and we weren't addressing it, because no one wanted to say, we don't want to point at gay man and say, oh, you smoke too much, you drink too much, but I didn't think about it that way.

I thought, let's have a conversation, the reason why you're leaning towards drugs, or alcohol, or unprotected sex, is because you haven't fully resolved the issue that you'are different from your parents. And I think once you get pass that then we had to deal with the HIV crisis and AIDS and how that affected us in the 80s, and that's how it adds our legacy.

And I still think that we've learned so much over the last 30 years, but we really haven't come a way with resolving that issue or not, and taking care of our own community. If you think about it, 1.1 million people in United State have HIV. One in six do not even know, they have it. That means they're not getting tested, and what really bothers me is that, every year, for the past several years, 50,000 new cases of HIV are diagnosed.

So what have we learnt in the past 30 years that we haven't been able to resolve that, or diminish that, and I think a lot of that has to do with education. We talk about a lot about research, we've made great strides with how we treat HIV, HIV is no longer is eminently fatal. If you're given a diagnosis of HIV in the 80's,

you probably are going to die within five years. Now we know it's chronic disease, you'll probably lived out the reminder of your life as if you're on medication, and you are well controlled, and you probably not going to die from HIV, you probably going to die from what is the No. 1 cause of death in United States which is heart disease. But, you have to be diagnosed and you have to be linked to care.