Salt Lake Tribune (10.20.03) - Tuesday, October 21, 2003
Characterizing the recent three-day gay men's health summit in
Salt Lake City, David Ferguson, a conference coordinator,
said, "The goal of the weekend is to expand the notion of gay
men's health beyond HIV. For about 20 years, gay men's health
has been equated with a person's HIV status. We're not
minimizing HIV, but gay men deal with lots of issues:
relationships, spirituality, substance abuse."
About 160 people attended the conference, which was held with
support from the Utah AIDS Foundation and Planned Parenthood.
Conference discussions and break-out sessions included aging
and HIV, fitness, substance abuse, sex in public places,
bathhouses, self-hypnosis and relationships.
HIV was still a common conference discussion. Kristen Ries, an
infectious disease physician at the University of Utah Health
Sciences, was concerned about the increase of HIV-positive gay
men. In 2002, 151 men tested HIV-positive at her clinic. This
year, the same number of people tested positive by the end of
July. According to the Utah Department of Health, about 1,780
people were living with HIV/AIDS in Utah as of 2001.
"People are tired of being safe," Ries said. "Young people
think there's a cure. And believe it or not, some people
haven't heard about [HIV]."
Reis urged the men also to be vigilant against other STDs. Gay
men are especially susceptible to anal warts, she said.
"Rectal warts are very common," said Reis. "Be aware of warts.
Get them treated early."
Ries' keynote speech touched on many other health issues that
affect gays. Gay men, for example, use drugs, alcohol and
tobacco at a higher rate than the general population and also
have a higher incidence of anxiety, suicide and depression. "I
understand how that comes about when you think about their
childhood," Reis said, considering the difficulty of coming
out and dealing with homophobia.