The challenge

When gay men access the healthcare system, they frequently encounter stigma, inaccurate stereotypes and misinformation on the part of healthcare providers. Over their lifetime, the relationship between gay men and the healthcare system becomes a hurdle many would rather avoid, even when it has a negative impact on their health.

A critical failure is that medical training includes very little about sexual minority health. This lack of training means it is unlikely that the majority of doctors and nurses have the comfort level and skills to inquire about patients’ sexual orientation or are aware of the multiple health challenges faced by gay men. At the same time, a large percentage of gay men choose not to disclose their sexual orientation to their healthcare provider. As a result, only common health conditions are addressed, while mental health, sexual health, HIV infection, and other health issues relevant to gay men are overlooked.

Addressing the social determinants of health is key to helping gay men engage in their own health care, and helping healthcare providers become more attuned to the unique life challenges gay men face.

“We want to take a comprehensive view of gay men’s health. We want to understand how gay men interact with the healthcare system and address the factors that prevent them from receiving the care they deserve.” – Dr. Paul MacPherson, Physician/Scientist, Chronic Disease Program

The solution

The Ottawa Hospital has established a Research Chair in Gay Men’s Health to create a comprehensive healthcare agenda that will help improve access to, and delivery of gay-relevant healthcare. A top researcher will be recruited to lead a multi-disciplinary team in examining ways to improve gay men’s health by coordinating clinical research in epidemiology, psychology, and other branches of medicine.