The health concerns of the LGTBQ community are as diverse and varied as the people who comprise it. Every individual has health worries and needs that can be shaped by a variety of factors, including age, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and geographic location. Researchers have found, however, that the common experience of stigma and discrimination suffered by many social and gender minorities can take a toll on the mental and physical health of many queer people.
Indeed, a 2017 poll, released by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, found that more than half of LGBTQ Americans report that they have experienced harassment, threats, or violence because of their sexuality or gender identity.
This rate of harassment, which can be attributed to minority stress, has a direct relationship with disparities in health. LGBTQ people have the highest rates of tobacco, alcohol, and drug use of all minority groups, and one in five LGBTQ adults avoid getting medical care for fear of discrimination.
Further, queer youth suffer from higher rates of homelessness and are as much as two to three times more likely to attempt suicide than the general population.
As awareness grows in the United States of the particular health needs of this population, the impetus for research and access to knowledgeable, respectful, and open health care providers is gaining ground.
Through education and training initiatives, as well as research projects aimed at gathering data on needs and demographics, organizations like the Fenway Institute, the National Institutes of Health, and GLMA (Health Professionals Advancing LGBT Equality) are working to improve the health of the community.
One of the biggest and most recent medical advances for LGBTQ Americans was the 2012 FDA approval of the daily HIV preventative medication PrEP — a powerful advance, considering that, in the United States, an estimated 1.2 million people are living with HIV and over 35,000 people are infected each year.
“Anyone who is having sex or is concerned for their risk of HIV should consider PrEP,” Dr. Andrew Goodman, Associate Director of Medicine at Callen-Lorde, a global leader in LGBTQ health care, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. Goodman states that gay men living in big cities have historically had the easiest access to PrEP, emphasizing that “women, queer people of color, and people who are living in smaller cities and rural areas” need access to the drug, too. Without insurance, PrEP can cost as much as $1,300 a month — but there are programs provided by some state governments and drug manufacturers that offer support and provide the prophylactic at a dramatically lower cost.
If you are interested in learning more about PrEP, Goodman recommends being “open and honest with your doctor.” He adds, “If you think your doctor may be unfamiliar with PrEP it may be helpful to print the guidelines from the CDC that talk about how to prescribe and monitor PrEP, and bring those with you to the appointment.”
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