New support group for senior gay men

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By Jeremy Hainsworth via Daily Xtra

Discussion group and research project launch this fall

As the generation of gay men who felt the brunt of the early AIDS crisis in the 1980s ages, some community leaders say more attention must be paid to meeting their current and future needs.

This fall will see the launch of a new discussion group for senior gay men and a research project aimed at studying their needs.

Researcher Robert Ablenas is part of a health team, along with Scott Harrison and Trevor Corneil, that has received a one-year grant of $25,000 from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The funding is being directed through Vancouver’s Health Initiative for Men, Ablenas says.

The team’s goal is to review new data about emotional, physical and health challenges faced by senior gay men over the age of 60 in BC, to determine how to move forward in cooperation with other agencies.

Members of that age group were shell-shocked as their peers were decimated in the early days of AIDS, Ablenas says. After being rejected, in many cases, by their biological families and subjected to negative responses to their sexuality, many of these men lost their chosen families to AIDS, he explains.

“This particular generation has a cultural double whammy, with family problems and AIDS.” As a result, many gay men became isolated and face specific challenges as they age, he says.

Ablenas says the decision to create a research project was driven by conversations and anecdotal reports that “there was not a lot out there.”

He would like to see more social support networks and better health outcomes. But first, he says, the research can help determine people’s needs.

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