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  • Writer's pictureSociety of Bioethics and Medicine

Health Disparities in the LGBTQ Community

Written by Aisha Abid

Edited by Razna Ahmed

Health disparities exist in the LGBTQ community, which are associated with social stigma, stereotypes, and prejudice. There are transgender issues that we are struggling with, and will continue to face them, just like we do with sexism and racism after many centuries. Identity shouldn’t be assumed based on appearance and behavior. Individuals in this community experience prejudice daily due to a lack of adequate health care. These disparities in the LGBTQ community have led to an increase in numerous health issues. These include mental health issues, substance abuse, and suicide. There are issues with nutrition, breast cancer/rectal cancer, AIDS/HIV, and STDs like Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, Syphilis, and many more. High rates of HIV/AIDS in the community are also linked to an increase in cancer, due to the weakening of the immune system.

In the community there's increased use of substances like tobacco and alcohol, which has resulted in a higher percentage of smoking-related cancers in the community. Dr. Nelson Sanchez suggests in an MSK article that gay men are more likely to develop anal cancer. Along with a higher percentage of cancer, they also experience lack of cancer screening. Many individuals in the LGBTQ community face many barriers getting the cancer screenings that they need, and a huge one is the fear of the discrimination they will face. Missing cancer screenings and medical appointments for early detection causes cancer to be diagnosed at a later stage, making treatment more difficult.

Mental health is a major issue in this community as well, and is linked with suicide, hate crimes and domestic violence. In the LGBTQ community, violence and victimization are common occurrences that have long-term repercussions for both the individual and the community. There is a lack of health care access, and individuals face discrimination from hospital staff. Factors such as insurance coverage, decision making, and nondisclosure of LGBTQ identities remain as issues to this day. Many insurance policies exclude unmarried partners, making it difficult for LGBTQ individuals to obtain the medical treatment they require. Same sex partners are sometimes left out of making life death decisions. The LGBTQ community is excluded from national database, and they have lower satisfaction with cancer treatment, which is probably because of the discrimination they face. There is higher psychological distress in survivorship, which is due to lack of support.

The health disparities that the LGBTQ Community face must be addressed in order to allow them to enjoy a healthy life. By addressing this problem, they will be able to enhance their quality of life by reducing mental health concerns such as substance abuse and suicide. They would feel more at ease attending needed medical visits, such as cancer screenings, if hospital workers and others did not discriminate against them. Attending cancer checkups and detecting cancer at an early stage may help make treatment easier. Not only would this make diagnosis simpler, but it may also aid disease progression and STD transmission. Implementing rules and processes, such as including sexual orientation and gender identity in nondiscrimination policies, can help to address health inequalities. Aside from policies, employees may increase patient satisfaction by creating a friendly environment rather than a hostile one.

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