B.C. Briefs

Spring into Action: Prince George Gay Men's Health Forum

Written by David Le

Our arrival in Prince George was met with the most exciting of sensations. The air was cool and
crisp. Beds of snow highlighted the vibrant purples, greens, and reds of the native flora. What a
beautiful place to be!

Accompanied by the ever-gracious Travis Shaw, we made our way to the University of Northern
British Columbia (UNBC), the next location in our knowledge dissemination tour in BC. Having
arrived a bit earlier, we had an opportunity to explore the campus.

It was during this exploration that I began to notice how art seemed to be integrated naturally into
campus life. Installments of wire insects seemed to fly across hallways as we walked past majestic
glass ceilings that were, as I was told, made to resemble upturned canoes. Many First Nations
artifacts could be seen throughout the campus and I was especially moved upon seeing the most
beautifully carved and painted doors of the UNBC Senate Chambers.

Olivier and I soon arrived at the Bentley Centre, where students, professors, and health
professionals gathered to listen to and engage with the results of the Sex Now survey. The findings
that were presented sparked critical discussion about gay men's health in Prince George. There
was a strong interest in examining gay men's health more broadly. Topics of interest included
chronic illness, adequate housing, resiliency, and the effects of being out.

Skepticism arose with respect to satisfaction with health care services. As mentioned during
the discussion, asking for an HIV test can be stigmatizing and greater efforts need to be made to
normalize HIV testing. One suggested method was to have doctors offer routine HIV tests instead of
placing the responsibility of testing on the individual accessing service.

A key discussion that arose was the desire to build research capacity in Prince George. In addition
to developing partnerships with current UNBC students and research organizations, the creation
of a Prince George-specific research group, composed of the attendees, was also suggested. It was
inspiring to see the discussions take off from there. Ideas about hosting table-top discussions and
increasing survey participation filled the Bentley Centre. It felt like the beginning of something
truly amazing.

As I look back at my time in Prince George, I'm left with one strong impression: that the strength of
a community cannot be measured by its size, but rather, by the passion and devotion of its citizens.

Left to right: Travis Shaw, Prince George; David Le, Investigaytors, CBRC
Left to right: David Le, Investigaytors, CBRC; Olivier Ferlatte, Research Education Director, CBRC; Travis Shaw and Dhillon Thompson, Prince George