It's not necessarily easy to go into a doctor's office and discuss the intimate details of your sex life. But it can be even more challenging for men who have sex with men (MSM) throughout B.C. who may be closeted to varying degrees or living where there isn't much LGBT visibility, discussion, or acceptance.
Equally so, healthcare providers who are unfamiliar with LGBT issues can also face challeneges in helping a gay patient.
Dylan Wall, program coordinator of Men's Health Initiative at the Living Positive Resource Centre in Kelowna, is launching a conference to help address such issues. (Wall's program is neither related to Men's Health Initiative of BC based in Vancouver nor Health Initiative for Men also in Vancouver.)
"Because we're not a metropolitan area per se, there's a conservative environment that hasn't yet embraced men's health with men who have sex with men," Wall said by phone from Kelowna. "A lot of patients who go in are scared to disclose their sexual information and history and things like that. So we decided that it was a good way to provide health-care providers and other frontline service workers with the information that they need to better help that community."
Wall said his objective is to "increase the number of supportive community-based networks for men who have sex with men in the Interior of B.C. and reduce the number of HIV transmission among that same population".
The Men's Health Matters Conference, to be held on May 19 at the Coast Capri Hotel in Kelowna, will consist of an all-day program for service providers and healthcare professionals.
They're also looking for MSM (which includes gay, bisexual, two-spirit, queer, or non-self-identifying men) from Interior B.C. who would be interested in being a panelist in two of their sessions. And no, you don't have to be a professional or expert in the field to be a panelist.
"We basically just need people to speak very openly and candidly about past experiences with healthcare and just coming out in the Interior and things like that, and the relationships that they've had, just to actually give perspective to some of our conference attendees on what sort of population that they're dealing and what sort of things to expect when a gay man comes into the doctor's office and not be brand new to those sort of situations," Wall said.
For the Adult Development, MSM Relationship, and Diversity panel, they're seeking a range of men who are willing to share their experiences of homophobia, relationships, and coming out in Interior B.C. with up to 45 professionals in attendance. Adult development refers to the fact that many MSM experience different stages of life that may vary or differ from heterosexual adults, such as coming out later in life. Diversity refers to different types of relationships, including monogamy or open relationships, as well as interracial partners.
For Engaging Positive Men, they're seeking HIV–positive men who can talk about their experience of coming out as positive, healthcare issues, and dealing with stigma.