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Summit Focuses on Gay Men's Health Issues

Leaders from the Carolina Alternative Meeting of Professional and Graduate Students and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender caucus within UNC's School of Public Health organized the event with input from several organizations throughout the Triangle region.

Glenn Grossman, chairman of CAMP and a graduate student in the School of Public Health, worked to organize Saturday's event and said the summit was a good opportunity to address issues that normally do not receive much attention.

"Every population has unique needs," Grossman said. "Gay men have a unique set of health needs that have not been dealt with well. This conference (looked) at the broad spectrum of things."

The summit featured multiple workshops in the Tate-Turner-Kuralt Building throughout the day, addressing issues such as "Depression in Gay Men" and "Influencing Public Health Policy."

The participants came together just before lunch for the keynote address by Eric Rofes, a professor at Humboldt University in California and the author of two books on the subject of gay men's health. During his address, Rofes explained the importance of the gay men's health movement.

"We are a tremendously strong community -- we survived a culture that told us not to exist, and we are here now," Rofes said, prompting an applause from the audience. "We need to take (our) energy and use it to galvanize a gay men's health movement across the country."

He also stressed the importance of reaching out to all members of the LGBT community and including both those who are a public health risk and members of different races and beliefs.

"We need to make sure this isn't a movement of the best little boys in the world," he said. Rofes said the greatest obstacle in gay men's health is sustaining a long-term movement that "does not depend on crises."

The growth of HIV infection has been the most visible crisis within the gay community, Rofes said. But like most public health issues in the United States, gay men's health only receives attention when a crisis such as HIV is being discussed.

Rofes said his goal is to see gay men's health become an everyday issue that does not rely on a crisis for attention.

He said one way to keep the momentum going is by making the summits fun and keeping the movement community-based.

Grossman said community support for the issue of gay men's health has been no problem in the Triangle. He said the community was more influential in setting the agenda for Saturday's summit than the School of Public Health.

"The community came to us," Grossman said. "I consider this really cutting-edge public health."

The University Editor can be reached at udesk@unc.edu.

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