Health Care for Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay, Transgender Populations
The health care needs for Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay, and Transgender Populations (LGBT) have been gaining constant attention in the past couple of years. Before 1992, LGBT was considered a mental illness and was utterly opposed in society. Although the attitude and acceptance have grown significantly, there are significant levels of stigma, hatred, and discrimination towards this group of people in the community to date.
As such, people who identify as LGBT members face immense challenges in accessing quality health care services. Physicians and health professionals should be aware of the health issues unique to the LGBT population to provide effective care. Health concerns facing LGBT include cases of chronic illness, mental health concerns, sexually transmitted diseases, drug and substance abuse, depression, and suicide in teenagers.
Health disparities in the LGBT population
• Sexually Transmitted Infections
Due to disparities in their sexual orientation, the LGBT community stands at a higher risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections. The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a major concern with the LGBT group, particularly for the male to male transgender group. In fact, 2% of people living HIV in the United States comprise of the MSM.
• Drug and substance abuse
Members of the LGBT population are twice more likely to engage in alcohol and controlled substance abuse than the general population. Different studies concur that tobacco smoking is also more prevalent in the LGBT group. Years back, members of the group could only meet in clubs and bars, which in a way contributed to the high levels of substance abuse. Studies also show that high levels of drug abuse are associated with unprotected sexual behaviours among the LGBT population, which has also contributed to high rates of sexually transmitted infections.
• Self-harm and suicide
Recently, there have been several highly publicized cases of suicide among teenage members of the LGBT population. Teenagers who identify as members of the LGBT are susceptible to stigma and bullying in school. They are also more likely to bring weapons in school and engage in fights, which puts them at risk of being injured. Although adult members can also be victims of sexual violence, teenagers are more susceptible to sexual abuse than their heterosexual counterparts.
• Mental Health and Chronic illnesses
High rates of mental illnesses like anxiety and depression are recorded in people who identify as lesbians, gays, bisexuals or transgenders. The high rates have mostly been attributed to the history of gender identity and stigma in society. Members of the LGBT may feel rejected and discriminated in the community, which becomes a major challenge as they seek health care.
In order to address and handle health issues of the LGBT population, society and health professionals need more sensitization in the fight against stigmatization of the LGBT populations. Understanding disparities in their health concerns is particularly significant for the physicians as they focus on providing effective and quality health care services.