Written by Joshun Dulai
On the days of March 21st and March 22nd, members of the CBRC with colleagues from
HIM and the BCCDC, embarked on a journey to Vancouver Island to share some data on
gay men living in the province, talk about some of the initiatives that exist in Vancouver,
while at the same time learn about some of the issues affecting men who live in Nanaimo
and Victoria. The workshops were organized by AIDS Vancouver Island (AVI.org) and
were attended by nurses, therapists, members of the community, and other professionals
who were interested in learning how to improve health care for gay men on the island.
Both days began with presentations from the Sex Now survey and on community
initiatives, followed by a community forum.
Over the course of the two days it became clear that the primary issue that concerned
the Vancouver Island community was the lack of resources and funding for gay men’s
health promotion. For example, participants felt there should be a gay men’s health centre
similar to HIM in Vancouver on Vancouver Island that would offer HIV and STI testing
but also health promotion services that address the broader health concerns of gay and
bisexual men. Currently, many gay men on the Island have to travel to Vancouver for
sexual health services such as obtaining PEP or having an anal pap smear performed,
because they are only offered on the mainland.
Another issue that seemed to be of concern was the lack of training and education around
gay and bisexual men issues for medical doctors and other health care professionals.
Finding a non-judgmental family doctor that is culturally competent with gay men is
difficult on the island. Doctors are uncomfortable discussing sex with their patients,
which can make it difficult for patients to demand an HIV test. To remedy this someone
suggested that doctors should be trained to ask all patients about doing an HIV test and
make it become a routine part of their practice. Finally, participants stated there should be
more awareness campaigns about what services already exist in the community as some
services are not well-known and under utilized.
The workshops in Nanaimo and Victoria were able to bring together individuals from
various occupational backgrounds for the first time in a long time and allowed for a
dialogue to be created between different organizations on the island, but also between
services on the mainland land and Vancouver Island. Hopefully this relationship
between Vancouver Island and the mainland will continue to grow over time and that by
continuing to share ideas across different communities, we will be able to improve the
health services available to gay men in BC.