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Activist Strives to Create the "Black Gay Male Health Agenda"

by Fred Kuhr

Sponsored by an Educational Grant from Hoffmann La-Roche

Stephan Oxendine was looking for a few good men at the annual Northeast Regional Conference of Gay Men of African Descent (GMAD) on June 15.

As a San Francisco based activist and co-chair to the Ryan White CARE Act Planning Council, Oxendine has been compiling community input to create what he refers to as, "a black gay male health agenda."

Oxendine, who is also the HIV manager of worldwide medical affairs for Dupont Pharmaceuticals, presented the input he's collected thus far at the GMAD conference held at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. He also asked the seven survey questions of his audience, hoping to garner even more responses.

To date, responses have been gathered at two gay male health summits since 1999. Oxendine also solicited respondents through the Internet using activist email lists.

Survey Questions
  • What is health?

  • What is black gay male health, or what is a healthy gay black male?

  • Why do we need a black gay male health agenda?

  • What are the components of a black gay male health agenda?

  • How do we implement a black gay male health agenda?

  • Who are our allies?

  • What are our next steps?

When asked to define health, many of the participants related to biomedical conditions. Whereas, when asked what makes a gay black male healthy, many mentioned psychosocial issues, including the relationship between ethnicity and sexuality.

Oxendine noted, however, that HIV was a constant health reference, regardless of the context of the question. When asked about identifying allies, other gay black men ranked eighth on the list, behind such entities as gay groups, churches and government, explained Oxendine. Reaching out to the greater black community as well as black churches were noted as important aspects of developing a health agenda.

Some of the workshop participants were concerned that the survey results were skewed because respondents were overwhelmingly middle class and middle-aged. Forty percent of respondents were in their 30s, 10 percent were in their 50s, and fifty percent of respondents were in their 40s. Sixty percent of respondents were HIV-positive. All were male.

"Iím concerned about this, too," said Oxendine. "Having identified that as a problem, we must make sure to contact younger black gay men to make sure that they are part of the process."

The effort is long overdue because the black gay male community lacks leaders willing to do the work, according to Oxendine and other conference participants. "That is why we must reach out to the churches," said one audience member. "It is the only institution left in our community that trains leaders."

In the meantime, Oxendine continues to pose these questions to men in the community at conferences and events, hoping to add more ideas and voices to the mix.

For more information or to be included in the survey, contact Oxendine at or 415-255-8905.


Updated: Wednesday, 27 June 2001


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