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Northern exposure

Limited health access in Prince George

If you’re a gay man in a health region which covers two-thirds of British Columbia and seven percent of the population, access to a doctor, never mind a gay-friendly doctor, is a luxury, according to Dr Theresa Healy, a regional manager for the Northern Health Authority.

“While they make up a comparatively small portion of the population, these men have health needs that, if overlooked or unmet, take a large toll on them, their social networks and society at large,” Healy writes in a report on the health and well being of men and boys in the region that includes a section on gay men’s health issues.

Men’s health in general is poor and poorer still in BC’s northern regions compared to the Lower Mainland, Healy says. Add being a gay man to the equation, and “you’re looking at triple jeopardy.”

Healy describes the northern landscape as hyper-masculinized. The prevalent notion of being a man’s man limits gay men’s access to health services, she says.

“They don’t talk about bodies, and it creates added danger for gay men in these work places,” she says. “Someone said you’re going to be in a bush camp for months on end. How could you be out in those conditions?”

Healy, who describes the status report as a beginning, says the Northern Health Authority is working on programming to attract a diverse cross-section of new health care practitioners to the region.

“We’re planning a big conference in February in partnership with a local organization and in that conference we’re hoping to attract men across the spectrum of age, race, class, sexual orientation.”

For gay men who may not feel comfortable attending a conference, community consultations are also in the works, she adds.