The fourth national conference on lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual health will be held in Sydney later this year. Health In Difference 4, part of the Gay Games conference program, is expected to attract some 400 delegates from around Australia and abroad.

The three-day conference, which begins on 31 October, will focus on a variety of community health issues.

Our international guests will present on health issues as diverse as mental health, sexual health and HIV, disabilities, breast cancer and suicide, said co-convenor Maud Frances.

Meanwhile, Australian delegates will provide a different perspective. I expect to see a local flavour with the focus on topical issues like gay parenting and lesbian access to IVF, said Frances.

The result will be a unique information-sharing opportunity for delegates.

It’s really the one opportunity that we have for people to come together from around the country and overseas and learn from each other and talk about and debate issues around gay and lesbian health, said Stevie Clayton, CEO of the AIDS Council of NSW.

Initiated by the Australian Centre for Lesbian and Gay Research at Sydney University, Health in Difference was first held in 1996.

Subsequent conferences -“ in Melbourne in 1998 and in Adelaide in 1999 -“ retained the theme of discrimination experienced by gay men and lesbians in accessing health services, which is likely to be re-explored this year.

And the conference won’t be restricted to an expert-based discussion of the relevant issues.

It’s also an opportunity for a grass-roots movement, for people with just an interest in the area to come forward and to voice their opinions and to get involved in things, said Clayton.

To underline this focus on diversity, discussion will take place in a variety of formats.

People can contribute in a number of ways -“ submitting an abstract for a proffered paper, organising a panel discussion, running a workshop or performing an event, said Frances.

I urge people to get involved and help explore queer health with an international audience.

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