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Two Health Guides for Men Take a Specialized Approach

MEN LIKE US The GMHC Complete Guide to Gay Men's Sexual, Physical, and Emotionaell-Being; By Daniel Wolfe; Ballantine Books; 629 pages; hardcover, $39.95; paperback, $24.95.

September 11, 2000

Flip through "Men Like Us" and you'll immediately realize it's not like other health books for men.

This comprehensive reference book addresses the emotional aspects of love, sex and illness. It examines the importance of spirituality and community among gay men. And, mindful that some gay readers may not be experienced with their sexuality, it offers a great deal of how-to information on just about every kind of sex practice (including sex with women), pointing out which are associated with increased risk of sexually transmitted diseases such as AIDS and hepatitis.

It was written by Daniel Wolfe, the former director of communications for the Gay Men's Health Crisis, the world's largest nonprofit AIDS service organization. Here he proves himself to be an authoritative voice on gay men's health.

The book is full of photographs, testimonials from prominent gay writers, athletes and activists, plus interesting asides about a wide range of subjects such as taking bodybuilding supplements, obtaining health coverage, deciphering medical studies and learning how family law treats gay fathers. It addresses not only physical, sexual and emotional health, but also aging, a crucial--but often under-examined--issue for the gay men who survived free love and the AIDS epidemic and are now part of the graying of America.

The volume also looks at the sometimes difficult search for a doctor who is comfortable treating gay patients, a search that can keep gay men (and lesbians, for that matter) out of medical offices. Further, it includes information about finding mental health professionals and sex therapists open to treating homosexuals and lists the "five tests and vaccines no gay man should go without": cholesterol, blood pressure, hepatitis A and B, testicular self-exam and HIV test.

Wolfe goes a long way toward giving gay men a useful reference book they'll be likely to pull off the shelf many times in many phases of their lives.

THE BLACK MAN'S GUIDE TO GOOD HEALTH Essential Advice for African-American Men and Their Families By Dr. James W. Reed, Dr. Neil B. Shulman and Charlene Shucker Hilton Puxblishing Co., 304 pages, $16.95.

This paperback volume is a layperson's book, one intended for a nonmedical audience interested in living a healthier life without getting bogged down in too much detail.

It instructs readers about the increased health risks they may not be aware of--and helps them take action to protect themselves. Black men have shorter life spans than white men, more kidney problems, more high blood pressure and higher rates of diabetes and AIDS (among black men age 25 to 44, AIDS has been the top killer since 1991). And, the book says, they have more stress, attributed in one study to discrimination over skin color.

The book addresses the causes, treatments and outlooks for particular health problems and includes helpful resources. For example, a section on taking control of one's health includes food lists showing those with high fat and salt content, with healthful alternatives. The chapter on blood pressure explains how to take a blood pressure reading and offers detailed profiles of various medications used to treat high blood pressure. The section on sickle cell disease, which is inherited, explains the underlying genetics. And a section on AIDS discusses in plain terms high-risk forms of sex and how to help protect yourself, including how to properly put on a condom.

Although many of the problems discussed have more complex origins than are presented here, the book would be valuable for black men seeking a basic guide to the greatest risks to their health.

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