This year's BC Gay Men's Health Summit is hoping to take a look at gay men's health in ways that diverge from predominant trends in the field.
Researchers, students, government policy officers, volunteers, and others in the public health field will converge at the eighth annual conference on Thursday and Friday (November 1 and 2) at SFU Harbour Centre (515 West Hastings).
Rick Marchand, the managing director of the Community-Based Research Centre, told the Georgia Straight by phone that this year's theme, Reconsidering Social Determinants, reflects their attempt to move attention away from concentrating solely on risky behaviour, which he said the field is fixated upon, to big-picture considerations.
"I think what we're trying to do in this Summit is broaden peoples' perspective on this and look at some of the underlying causes, some of the determinants of health and the issues that impact gay men's health like homophobia and the kind of marginalization that could go on."
He notes that in spite of numerous gains made by gay rights movements, there are still prevalent inequities and issues that affect gay male health.
"There's a lot of institutional homophobia," he said. "What gay men find in institutions doesn't translate into equity. A lot of gay guys, for example, have a difficult time finding a gay-positive physician or coming out to their physician, so they don't really get the kind of services they need."
He also emphasized the importance of sharing information beyond B.C.'s major urban centres to cities like Kelowna, Kamloops, and more.
"Outside of Vancouver and Victoria, there's such little HIV prevention for gay men and very little gay men's health education," he said." We're really trying to bring more attention to this."
Marchand says a key reason for the annual meeting is to get people together from across the province to "plan and strategize" and to bring everyone up to speed on the latest developments.
A wide range of topics will encompass everything from gay male body image and barebacking in gay porn to the impact of homophobia on gay men's health. Speakers will also address issues related to specific populations, including aboriginal and Asian people in Canada.
Several presentations will unveil more data from CBRC's landmark national Sex Now Survey, conducted in 2010 and 2011, which gathered information about the lives of Canadian gay men.
"We now have data on every region in B.C. and stuff about the health of gay men in those areas about do they go get tested, do they have a physician. We've never had this kind of information before. For us in working in the field, we just say it's about time, we've been trying to get this kind of detailed information for many years and now it's starting to come through our own community initiatives."
Marchand says that Dr. Mark Gilbert for BC Centre for Disease Control will provide a breakdown of the data across the province at No Magic Bullet: Moving Forward with HIV Prevention and Gay Men in BC (November 1). He notes that it's a preamble to a report being prepared for the provincial health officer Perry Kendall.
Meanwhile, Dr. Terry Trussler is going to release data from the Sex Now survey at the Gay Health in the Workplace panel on Friday (November 2).
What's more, the conference will be followed by Stepping Up to the Future of Young Gay Men's Health, an invite-only summit for young gay men (funded by the nonprofit Shooting Stars Foundation) that will assemble a group of 40 participants on Saturday (November 3).
"I think this bodes well for the future of HIV prevention, to be getting the young guys involved in actually working in the field and doing things," Marchand said.
For more information about the summit, visit the CRBC website.