It’s LGBT Health Awareness Week!

This week is the 20th LGBT Health Awareness Week, a time to bring attention to the discrimination and health disparities that affect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.

Often health care professionals, policymakers, and patients themselves assume that LGBT patients and clients do not have specific health and health care needs based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Whether this stems from prejudice, lack of knowledge, or is motivated by a desire to help, it is not true. Although the amount of research conducted in this particular area is limited, the results indicate that LGBT patients have specific needs that are not being sufficiently met by health professionals, and that as a result these individuals not only experience social discrimination, but also health discrimination and violations of patient rights.

This contributes to an even more acute sense of intense social pressure and thus to the experience of problems and difficulties different from those of the rest of the population, which in turn affects their specific health needs, both somatic and psychological.

In Poland, anti-LGBT sentiments are relatively common: 84% fear for their safety because of discrimination, 20.2% have experienced physical aggression, 54.6% psychological aggression, and as many as 23.5% feel discriminated in contact with health services.

Some most prevalent and troublesome examples of inappropriate responses by health care professionals cited by LGBT patients are:

  • professional negligence, improperly administering a test, or even waiving a test due to a physician’s negative and private response to a patient’s reported need (e.g., unwillingness to perform a cytology test on a lesbian);
  • suggesting that a condition diagnosed in a gay man or a man who has sex with other men (MSM) is related to potential HIV infection, despite the fact that it is well known that the WHO in its directives has moved away from distinguishing specific „risk groups”, formulated in a working manner at the beginning of the HIV epidemic in the 1980s and 1990s, in favor of behaviors that carry a potential risk of STI infection;
  • informing third parties that the patient is of a sexual orientation other than heterosexual, regardless of the consent or knowledge of that person, in a situation where this information is not related to the treatment (e.g. informing about this fact to the patient’s colleagues as a „joke”, out of a desire to please the environment, downplaying the seriousness and consequences of the situation, and in violation of medical confidentiality and the legal rights of the patient to the protection of personal data)
  • Not offering the services of a hospital chaplain because of a subjective belief that all LGBT people are non-believers;
  • Refusing to accept a patient because of their sexual orientation or gender identity (e.g., asking a patient to leave an office without a reason and/or failing to perform a procedure – despite having a prior appointment with the person, shortly after learning of their sexual orientation);
  • Offensive or discriminatory comments about a patient’s sexual orientation or gender identity; behavior that intentionally insults the dignity of another person (e.g., motivated by personal dislike, intent to cause distress, or embarrassment); or a moralizing attitude intended to dissuade a patient from continuing to be gay, lesbian, or bisexual;
  • Sexual harassment of the patient; asking questions that are not related to the treatment process and that do not serve the purpose of diagnosis, with the intention of satisfying one’s own curiosity (e.g., asking a homosexual patient about his or her sexual experiences and intimate impressions from sexual intercourse with another woman).

To get more information about your rights as an LGBT patient or a doctor wanting to learn how to properly provide for your queer patients visit Kampania Przeciw Homofobii and read their LGBT Health A Guide for Medical Staff.

Source: Kampania Przeciw Homofobii