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LGBT Health

Roughly 10% of the total population is lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. While LGBT people are as diverse asthe rest of the population, they often share a common experience of stigma and discrimination, creating common health issues. These individuals are often faced with a range of health care risks that are often not addressed due to lack of knowledge of the patient’s sexual orientation, ignorance of specific health problems, previousnegative personal experience, inappropriate or poor health care due to real or perceived homophobia or transphobia, and discrimination by health professionals and institutions.

There is a very limited amount of information available on health care risks within the LGBT community, as most studies and surveys do not usually address sexual orientation or gender identity. Social stigma, discrimination, and the ignorance of their civil and human rights prevent a lot of people from identifying themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. And with the long history of health disparities, a huge percentage of LGBT people do not seek health careand are therefore not included from health studies.

About two-thirds of health professionals never ask their patients about their sexual orientation, some of whom assume that their patients are heterosexual. Others may be homophobic and hostile and prefer to avoid the issue.

Things have significantly improved for LGBT people over the past decade, but there is still constant uncertainty about whether they will receive acceptance from their families, friends, colleagues, as well as services. This may seem trivial to some but the constant pressure of having to deal with this uncertainty has a negative impact on one’s health and well-being.

While the LGBT community has many of the same health issues as the rest of the population, they experience certain health challenges at higher rates, and also face a number of unique health challenges.

According to the US Gay and Lesbian Medical Association (GLMA), besides HIV/AIDS, LGBT people have higher rates of certain cancers like breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and cervical cancer among lesbian women; and anal cancer among gay men(secondary to HPV exposure); hepatitis; mental health disorders;obesity; unsafe alcohol and drug use; and smoking.LGBT people are also documented to have higher incidence rates of self-harm and suicide ideation.

Some people also assume that the issues for lesbian women would be the same for bisexual women, and the same for gay men and bisexual men. However, there is currently no comprehensive study that supports bisexual-specific health issues.

Researches frequently collect data on bisexual and lesbian women or bisexual and gay men together to increase the sample size, which causes the data to be lost regarding specific issues that are faced by bisexual people. Some evidence also point out that bisexual people actually experience worse outcomes in mental health, which perhaps stems from the double stigma they experience (not accepted by the gay and lesbian community and not accepted by the heterosexual community). However, more information is required to validate this.

Other issues that need to be addressed include access to care for transgender persons, issues surrounding marriage and the need to be accepted by family and friends, conversion therapy, and refusal clause legislation and the laws that are intended to protect health care providers from liability for discriminating those whom they disapprove.