March 27, 2014
In Ontario, health services refer to services that promote health, prevent illness or disease, and provide treatment for those who need it. Some examples of these services include hospitals, public health units and programs, and drop in clinics.
For gay men, some of these services might not be as accessible as they could be and some guys in rural or isolated communities might not have the same number of services available. Even when services are available they might not be as informed as they should be about gay men (and the realities of our lives).
What impacts the frequency and quality of our health care the most?
- Fear of stigma and discrimination – the stress and anxiety of feeling like you may be judged for who you are
- Lack of confidentiality – feeling like you cannot trust anyone with private, sensitive information
- Lack of awareness – feeling like a health care provider or service won’t understand your concerns as it relates to being gay
- Proximity of services – the distance between home and getting help, the reality that accessing help may be hard for some of us
There is a difference between needing help and feeling safe enough to seek that help. For those of us who have access to services and regular doctors, talking about gay issues may not always happen because we’re stressed or anxious about having the talk or we’ve experienced uncomfortable situations in the past. If we’re unable to be open about our needs in these settings and we ignore the actual problem, this can become an unhealthy habit – placing us at greater risk for things. As a result we might miss out on information and/or treatment to help us.
Those of us living in rural Ontario know that trying and getting to the doctor can be a difficult – long or far drives and no one to get us there. What if we had to visit the family doctor for something we felt was tied to being gay? Our willingness to talk openly depends on competent and supportive health care services that understand what it means to be a gay, bisexual, 2-spirit, trans man and also respect our privacy.
Finally, our doctors may not be as informed about our unique needs – coming out, impacts of bullying, our HIV status or sex partners’ status, what HIV meds to be taking OR how to access HIV meds for 30 days in the event we feel we were exposed to the virus……these are our realities – and doctors should know. These impact how and when we access health care services.
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