While people in the LGBTQ community have the same general health concerns as people in the general population, they also face unique health challenges. For example, research suggests that, compared with heterosexuals, some groups within the LGBTQ community are more likely to suffer from certain long-term health conditions. In addition, they may also face stigma, discrimination, and even violations of their civil and human rights that can lead to worse health outcomes.
Still, it’s important for LGBTQ patients to find the healthcare that they need. Read on to learn ways to help overcome the barriers that may stand in the way of receiving appropriate healthcare.
Health disparities faced by LGBTQ individuals
LGBTQ individuals are more likely to have certain health issues than people who are not LGBTQ. For example:
- Lesbians are less likely to get preventive services for cancer.
- Lesbians and bisexual females are more likely to be overweight or obese.
- Gay men, especially in communities of color, are at higher risk for HIV and other STDs.
- Transgender individuals have a high prevalence of HIV and STDs, victimization, mental health issues, and suicide. They are also less likely to have health insurance than heterosexual or LGB individuals.
- LGBTQ youth are up to 3 times more likely to attempt suicide and are also more likely to be homeless.
- Elderly LGBTQ individuals face additional barriers to healthcare due to isolation and a lack of social services and culturally competent providers.
- LGBTQ populations have the highest rates of tobacco, alcohol, and other drug use.
Barriers unique to LGBTQ individuals
In addition to the increased health-related risks LGBTQ individuals face, there are also unique barriers that may prevent them from getting the care they need. These include:
- Limited access to care. LGBTQ individuals are less likely to have health insurance. Reasons include rejection by the family, unemployment or homelessness, or a lack of appropriate coverage for the needed services among those with insurance.
- Negative experiences. LGBTQ individuals may face discrimination and/or negative experiences with inadequately trained healthcare professionals when seeking healthcare. According to the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s 2018 Healthcare Equality Index, 70% of transgender and gender non-conforming patients said they had experienced some type of discrimination in healthcare. Almost 56% of lesbian, gay, or bisexual patients reported having at least one of these types of experiences.
- Lack of knowledgeable healthcare providers. LGBTQ individuals may find that some healthcare providers lack the knowledge or experience for meeting their needs.
“I chose a healthcare provider who is also a member of the LGBTQ community. As a gay male, I wanted to speak to someone who was like me and who understands me from his own experience. My healthcare provider is knowledgeable, caring, and open.”
– Rafael H.
Tips to finding appropriate care
While LGBTQ individuals may not be able to overcome all of the barriers to care that they face, there are ways to find LGBTQ-friendly healthcare providers.
- Ask friends or members of local LGBTQ centers for the names of LGBTQ-friendly healthcare providers.
- Check the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association’s healthcare provider directory.
- Visit the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s healthcare equality index to find local hospitals with patient non-discrimination policies that include gender identity.
- Call a medical practice and ask if they have experience treating LGBTQ patients. If it makes you uncomfortable, keep in mind that you don’t have to give your name when asking.
“When choosing a healthcare provider, be open and bold. If you experience any negativity, use your network and seek out a new healthcare provider who accepts you as you are.”
– Laura M.
- 1. Kaiser Family Foundation. Health and Access to Care and Coverage for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Individuals in the U.S. Accessed November 18, 2019.
- 2. HealthyPeople.gov. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Health. Accessed October 9, 2019.
- 3. National LGBT Health Education Center. Providing Inclusive Services and Care for LGBT People. Accessed October 9, 2019.
- 4. Human Rights Campaign Foundation. Healthcare Equality Index 2018. Accessed October 9, 2019.
- 5. Human Rights Campaign Foundation. Coming Out to Your Doctor. Accessed October 9, 2019.