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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Talk at health conference looks at family, romance
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Carrie Maxwell, Windy City Times
2013-11-26

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About 100 people attended the family and romantic relationships research session during the second annual Chicago LGBTQ Health and Wellness Conference at Northwestern Memorial Hospital's Feinberg Pavilion Nov. 20.

The conference also featured research sessions on substance abuse; youth stress, discrimination and victimization; and adult mental and physical health.

Emma Sterrett from the University of Louisville gave a presentation on "Non-parental Adult Involvement in the Social Networks of Young Men Who Have Sex with Men ( YMSM )". Sterrett's co-authors were Birkett; Lisa Kuhns of Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago; and Dr. Brian Mustanski, director of the IMPACT program at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

"We know that YMSM are facing a variety of health disparities," said Sterrett. Sterrett explained that in a 2010 study they found that 72 percent of new HIV infections among persons aged 13-24 were attributed to YMSM. Also, from 2008 to 2010 there was a 22-percent increase in new infections among YMSM compared to a 12-percent increase among MSM in general, said Sterrett.

There are higher rates of substance abuse in the LGB youth population compared to their heterosexual counterparts as well as an increase in depression and suicide in the LGB youth population, noted Sterrett.

Sterrett shared that the other issues facing YMSM are higher rates of parental detachment and rejection and peer victimization such as ostracism, bullying and physical violence.

When looking at the role of supportive non-parental adults ( SNPAs ), Sterrett noted that the presence of SNPAs in the lives of YMSM's produced positive outcomes in both psychological and neurocognitive development in YMSM's.

The University of Cincinnati's Sarah Whitton presented "Relationship Education with Same-Sex Couples."

Whitton explained that it is important to study same-sex couple's relationships because they are integral to the lives of many LGBT individuals with 80-90 percent of LBGT youth planning to be in long-term committed relationship as adults. "There are sizeable numbers of same-sex couples in the US- representing about 6 out of every 1,000 households and many of these couples are the heads of households raising children," said Whitton. "Given cultural changes, and the increasing legal recognition of these relationships, they are likely to become even more prevalent.

"There are multiple challenges that same-sex couples face that are a part of living in a heterosexist society. They include minority stress, the lack of legal recognition and social support, and so few role models," said Whitton.

Relationship education, Whitton noted, is a skill-building workshop that teaches couples how to maximize their chances of staying together. Whitton explained that there is a need for same-sex relationship education that caters to both gay and lesbian couples and that the current model poses limits due to heterosexist bias.

Whitton created a program with male same-sex couples in both Cincinnati and Boston. The program assessed feasibility and acceptability, and gathered participant feedback to refine the program and broadly inform same-sex relationship education. What Whitton found was that same-sex couple participants appreciated that the program was for them and that they didn't have to translate heterosexual materials.

Recently, Whitton expanded the program to include female same-sex couples and she shared that those couples had a high rate of program satisfaction and it was easier to recruit female same-sex couples.

"Advancing Methodologies in Sexual Minority Intimate Partner Violence ( SM-IPV ) Research" was the topic of a presentation from Northeastern Illinois University's Adam Messinger.

Messinger noted that SM-IPV includes verbal abuse, controlling behaviors, and physical and sexual violence. The goal of the study, Messinger explained, is to improve SM-IPV research designs, however, there are unique challenges to studying SM-IPV including defining and sampling the population.

Messinger said that "further research should include adopting heterosexual intimate partner violence gold standards like avoiding stigmatizing language and looking at the violence context as well as enabling multiple definitions of population by assessing multiple dimensions of sexual orientation and the sexual orientation of respondents' partners. Also, enhancing sample representativeness by using random sampling where possible and improving representativeness of non-random sampling by diversify venue types and time-space sampling."

Q&A sessions followed each presentation.

Only one mention of LGBT senior citizen issues was made in the sessions Windy City Times attended. In the NIH report shared by keynote speaker Dr. Lawrence Tabak, principal deputy director at the NIH Department of Health and Human Services, he pointed out that only 2.7 percent of the LGBTI NIH funded projects addressed senior issues.


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