Joint pain

September 2010


Roles ascribed to general practitioners by gay men with depression

Volume 39, No.9, September 2010 Pages 667-671

Christy E Newman

Susan Kippax

Limin Mao

Deborah Saltman

Michael R Kidd


This article identifies the roles that gay men with depression ascribe to their chosen general practitioner and considers how they might influence the dynamics of clinical interactions between gay men and their doctors.


Forty gay identified men with depression (recruited from high HIV caseload general practices in New South Wales and South Australia) took part in semistructured interviews that were analysed using the principles of thematic analysis. Seventeen men (aged 20–73 years) were HIV positive.


Five distinct roles were identified: GP as trusted confidant, gentle guide, provider of services, effective conduit, and community peer.


Gay men who have ongoing contact with their GP may expect them to intuitively understand which roles are expected and appropriate to perform in each consultation and over time. General practitioners should consider these changing roles, and take them into account (as appropriate) to achieve open and trusting relationships in the care of their gay male patients.

The health concerns of gay identified men have been well documented, including a greater vulnerability to depression, due in no small part to continuing experiences of marginalisation and discrimination. This is certainly true of Australian gay men, including those who are HIV positive.1–4 However, Australian research also indicates that many gay men have access to open minded and supportive general practitioners, at least in the major cities.5–11 This is at odds with some reports in international literature which suggest that many gay men avoid disclosing sexual orientation and/or HIV status in health care settings due to fear or evidence of homophobia and stigma,12–15 which can seriously impact quality of care, including the prevention and treatment of mental illness. This opens up questions about the roles that Australian gay men with depression ascribe to their chosen GP and how this might influence the dynamics of clinical interactions between gay men and their doctors in high HIV caseload general practice settings.

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