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Spotlight on the State of LGBTQIA+ Healthcare

LGBTQIA+ Health Topics Honoring National LGBTQIA+ Health Awareness Week 2024

March 18 - March 22 is National LGBTQIA+ Health Awareness Week. This year's theme, “Vital Vibrant Voices” raises awareness about health challenges through a series of educational and advocacy efforts. Throughout the week, hundreds of partner organizations, including the National Coalition for LGBT Health, will work to uplift the voices of LGBTQIA+ individuals, healthcare providers, and advocates to help inform dialogue and drive meaningful engagement in LGBTQIA+ healthcare. 

The  LGBTQIA+ community tends to experiencediscrimination in healthcare settings, compared to heterosexual patients; often resulting in worse outcomes. Those who believe sexuality-based discrimination should be permissible may argue that “these people can seek care elsewhere,” however, it’s important to remember that some insurance coverage is limited to certain healthcare facilities and access isn’t always convenient–especially in an emergency setting, rural areas or long-term facilities.

LGBTQIA+ individuals continue to face discrimination, inequalities and disparities in healthcare, coming from  the lack of access to affordable, and quality health services.

The State of LGBTQIA+ Health: Statistical Insights 

25% of LGBTQIA+ people reported being in fair or poor health compared to 18% of non-LGBTQIA+ people. This was especially common among LGBTQIA+ people with low incomes and those covered by Medicaid.

Research has found that lesbian, gay, and bisexual adults have a higher risk of heart disease and other cardiac problems than others. Moreover, lesbian, gay, and bisexual adults may be more likely to smoke and have poorly controlled blood sugar, both of which contribute to heart disease.

Some research suggests that lesbian and bisexual women have a higher risk of breast cancer than others. Increased substance abuse and stress among lesbian and bisexual women compared to the general population may contribute to that risk.

Evidence suggests that eating and body image disorders may be more common among LGBTQIA+ people than others. It also suggests that the outcomes of LGBTQIA+ mental health are poorer compared to heterosexual people. 

In the United States, gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men are most affected by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Adolescent and adult gay and bisexual men made up 68% of new HIV diagnoses in the United States in 2018. Condomless sex is one of the most significant risk factors for getting or transmitting HIV.

The LGBTQIA+ community also includes people of different ethnicities, races, and religions. If a person is a part of another marginalized group it becomes even more challenging to find appropriate care.  According to a 2021 Cornell University study, for example, LGBTQ people are more likely than non-LGBTQ people to be people of color. And LGBTQ people of color face higher levels of discrimination than their white counterparts.

Those in the LGBTQIA+ community who have undergone discrimination or poor treatment from healthcare providers due to their sexual preference or orientation have to deal with the negative effects. These can be both mentally and physically impacting. When an LGBTQIA+ person has gone through this, it limits their willingness to  pursue medical care again. This can lead to undiagnosed or poorly managed conditions and potentially life-threatening outcomes. 

Dismantling Discrimination 

There’s still a long way to removing disparities in healthcare for LGBTQIA+ people and other marginalized populations. However, efforts made by the National Coalition for LGBT Health and other partners over the past 24 years have made it easier for LGBTQIA+ individuals to find affordable, equitable care. In the past few years, we’ve seen some progress: 

  1. Specialized Care for LGBTQIA+ People: Organizations like  Folx Health have made in-person and virtual care more accessible, affordable and inclusive for the LGBTQIA+ community, making it more accessible to find a provider and LGBTQ health centers in various cities.
  2. Many hospitals and health organizations have required sensitivity training and education sessions on how to best provide care to LGBTQIA+ individuals 
  3. Health Care Bill of Rights: Rolled out by President Obama in 2010, this bill helps to protect people in the LGBTQIA+ community.

To learn more about the National LGBTQIA+ Health Awareness Week and how to support the cause, visit the  National Coalition for LGBT Health.  

“Equality means more than passing laws. The struggle is really won in the hearts and minds of the community, where it really counts.” - Barbara Gittings (American LGBTQIA+ activist)