National LGBT Health Awareness Week is a time to bring attention to the health disparities that affect the LGBT community. This year’s awareness week will be observed March 22-26, 2021 and marks the 19th annual observance.
Individuals in the LGBT community have many of the same health concerns as the general population, but a combination of stigmas, rejection, violence, and inequality means they experience certain health challenges at a higher rate with less support.
Historically, healthcare access has been harmful to the LGBT population. Until 1973, homosexuality was considered a disorder by professionals, and it wasn’t until 2013 that transgender status was removed as a disorder from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Additionally, many LGBT individuals have previously been subject to reparative therapies such as electroshock or castration. With this history in mind, it is easy to understand the reluctance of some LGBT patients to reveal their sexuality or gender identity to providers, or even to seek healthcare in the first place.
Due to this reluctance, studies have found that there are certain health disparities that are more common among the LGBT population. These include increased rates of HIV and sexually transmitted infections; higher rates of substance abuse, smoking, depression, and anxiety; lower rates of mammography and Pap smear screenings; and higher rates of unhealthy weight control and/or perception. Those in the LGBT community may lack health insurance or other funds to cover healthcare costs due to employment discrimination. It is also important to keep in mind that many of these disparities can overlap and compound with inequalities related to ethnicity, race, gender, social class, and disability status.
As healthcare providers look to better address the needs of their LGBT patients, they must strive to create safe and inclusive environments. Part of maintaining a safe healthcare environment means that all staff are trained and educated on respectfully interacting with LGBT patients, including understanding how patients prefer to be addressed, taking non-judgmental sexual and social health histories, and mirroring the language patients use for themselves.
For a more in-depth look at the health needs of the LGBT population, you can visit the National LGBTQIA+ Health Education Center.
Caring Communities is committed to creating safe and welcoming offices for all of our clients and patients. All of our services are completely confidential and our staff completes regular cultural competency trainings to ensure we understand the latest needs of the communities we serve.
If you are in need of STI/HIV testing, or are living with HIV and need assistance, contact us today!