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HEALTH

‘Gay Bowel Syndrome’ struck from textbook


Jon Garbo | December 21, 2004

A gay activist scored a victory against the Canadian Association of Gastroenterology (CAG), which last month deleted any reference to "gay bowel syndrome" from its medical textbook, the Southern Voice reported on April 12. The authors used the syndrome to describe a parasitic infection of the intestines that is prevalent among gay men who engage in anal-oral contact (rimming). However, the infection is by no means exclusive to gay men.

It is very much a defamation to say ‘gay bowel syndrome,’ when what they’re really talking about is parasites," said activist Michael Petrelis, who discovered the textbook entry. "It just seems so wacky and outrageous that in 2001 these educated medical people are still believing that ‘gay bowel syndrome’ exists."

"Gay bowel syndrome" is an outdated term from the 1980’s that appeared accidentally in the textbook, First Principles of Gastroenterology: The Basis of Disease and An Approach to Management, according to a CAG official. "It slipped into this [edition] purely by accident," said Dr. Eldon Shaffer, head of the Department of Medicine at the University of Calgary and the textbook’s co-author. "I didn’t even know it was still in there; I had to find it… It’s gone."

While gay men may be more at risk than heterosexual men for the parasites, it’s still harmful to label the condition as a gay one, agreed Gay Men’s Health Crisis’ communications manager, Marty Algaze. "Sickle cell anemia is primarily seen in African Americans, but would you call it African American anemia? People would never accept that," he said.


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