From the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine Gay-Straight Alliance:
Welcome to the spring HUMS Wellness edition!
This April, Miami will celebrate its 5th annual Gay Pride Parade. This event features a full week of events, from lectures to movie nights, and from late-night parties to the world famous Parade itself. And, while Gay Pride Month doesn’t officially happen until June, the HUMS wellness blog is taking the opportunity to let readers know some basic health and wellness info for the LGBTQ community.
LGBTQ individuals represent a unique, often medically-underserved population in healthcare. Lack of access to care, and discrimination in the care setting, mean LGBTQ individuals are less likely to see physicians, or to see them much later in an illness or disease. Additionally:
• LGBTQ youth are 2 to 3 times more likely to attempt suicide
• Lesbians are less likely to get preventive services for cancer
• Gay men are at higher risk of HIV and other STDs, especially among communities of color
• Transgender individuals have a high prevalence of HIV/STDs, mental health issues, and suicide, and are less likely to have health insurance than heterosexual or LGB individuals
• LGBTQ populations have the highest rates of tobacco, alcohol, and other drug use
Finally, all LGTBQ individuals are at risk of being a victim of a hate crime, hate violence, discrimination, or other abuse based on their gender identity or sexual orientation. Legal discrimination in access to health insurance, employment, housing, marriage, adoption, and retirement benefits is also an issue. With a shortage of health care providers who are knowledgeable and culturally competent in LGBTQ health, LGBTQ individuals face many challenges to getting good-quality, regular health care.
To empower LGBTQ patients in the clinical setting, here are some recommendations that can greatly improve any doctor’s visit.
Things lesbian and bisexual women should talk to their providers about:
Compared to heterosexual women, lesbian and bisexual women are at greater risk for certain types of cancers, anxiety/depression, alcohol, tobacco, or other substance abuse, and obesity. These risk factors can contribute to an increased risk of heart disease.
1. Come out: this may be the most challenging part of a doctor’s visit. But being honest with your provider about your gender identity and sexual orientation opens the relationship to other important, and often overlooked, conversations (see things 2-10!)
2. Breast cancer, gynecological, and reproductive cancers like ovarian cancer
4. Heart health
5. Personal fitness/weight loss
6. Tobacco use
7. Alcohol and other substance abuse
8. Intimate partner violence: contrary to popular belief, domestic violence can occur between same sex couples.
9. Sexual health: this should be a central part of any doctor’s visit, regardless of your gender identity or sexual orientation!
Things gay and bisexual men should talk to their providers about:
As with lesbian and bisexual women, gay and bisexual men are more likely to smoke and abuse alcohol compared to their heterosexual counterparts. They are also more likely to use recreational drugs, and are at a higher risk for certain sexually transmitted diseases. Like lesbian and bisexual women, they are also at risk for mental health disorders, domestic violence, and hate crimes.
1. Come out
2. HIV/AIDS and safe sex
3. Hepatitis immunizations
4. Personal fitness, body image issues, anorexia and/or bulimia
5. Tobacco, alcohol, and substance abuse
7. Sexually transmitted diseases, including gonorrhea and HPV
8. Prostate, testicular, and colon cancer
Of course, on a party weekend, good advice all around is to practice safe sex. This goes for everybody, not just our LGBTQ readers. And remember, LGBTQ health and wellness is everybody’s health and wellness! So let’s be good to each other, and enjoy all the wonderful things Miami’s Gay Pride Parade has to offer!
Healthcare resources for LGBTQ individuals in Miami:
Statistics adapted from the Fenway Institute, an LGBTQ health research, advocacy, and education organization