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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update
Salt Lake City Gay Men's Health Summit Looks Beyond AIDS
Carey Hamilton
October 21, 2003
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.