published on March 25, 2019 in Pacific AIDS Network
It was my first year attending the Gay Men’s Health Summit this November (the 8th annual organized by the Community-Based Research Centre for Gay Men’s Health) and the organizers dished out an impressive program. While efforts to de-stigmatize HIV testing have been encouraging everyone who has ever had sex to get tested (an important effort!) HIV remains a heavy burden for the gay community, an issue conference organizers insist needs to be brought into the light. While in Vancouver it is estimated that 1 in 1000 people have HIV in the general population, when you look at just the gay male population, the number is 1 I 5. Needless to say, it remains as important as ever to gather to discuss how HIV is a key health concern for the gay men’s community. To keep the discussion going, I connected with Jaime Forrest, the coordinator of the Momentum sexual health study, to hear his reflections on what was presented at the Summit.
Andrea Langlois (AL): What does this year’s summit theme “Reconsidering the social determinants of health” mean to you?
Jamie Forrest (JF): Reconsidering the social determinants of health is about highlighting and recognizing the important social drivers of gay men’s health inequities. We are not all equal in our risk for any given health condition. There are social, cultural and economic factors that make us all more or less susceptible to illness. Research and practice that ignores this, by not considering the unequal distribution of access to resources and knowledge that protects our health, will be flawed in its approach. This year’s conference importantly reminded us that broadening the discourse to include elements of the social determinants of health framework is crucial to working towards a better and more holistic understanding of gay men’s health.
AL: A new (to me at least!) acronym got more action than others at the Gay Men’s Health Summit was “UAI.” What does this acronym mean and what does it say about the focus of some HIV prevention research?
JF: Yes, the acronym “UAI” definitely was floated many times at the Summit! The acronym UAI stands for Unprotected Anal Intercourse. The term UAI historically comes from the field of epidemiology, the study of population health. In epidemiology, researchers use UAI as an outcome measure when trying to better understand what factors are associated with transmitting or acquiring HIV. However, this is an imperfect measure of risk of transmission. There are many forms of unprotected anal intercourse that vary in risk. Controlling for relationship status and sex with regular versus casual versus anonymous partners as well as partner serostatus is therefore important for researchers to account for in describing risk associated with UAI.
AL: Methods for measuring sexual altruism and HAART optimism were presented by Allan Lal and Ashleigh Rich, and Sarah Chown provided an overview of what gay men’s health literature says about resilience – what do these approaches offer to researching the social drivers of HIV within gay communities? Or not?