Steps Toward Healthcare Equality

Recently, the south has taken a turn for the good in its healthcare system. Being mostly conservative, these states have not been generous or equal when it comes to the health of LGBT community. Even more importantly, the community suffers through different health effects than the general population. However, centers are slowly building up to meet the needs of HIV/AIDS patients while training is swinging into motion for medical schools and hospitals.

Harvey Makadon, a Clinical Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, reports that “LGBT people still experience much discrimination and stigma and this is true in health care. Research has shown that LGBT patients experience unique health disparities and have many health care needs that differ from the general population.” He goes on to say that new cases of HIV have not declined, but remained at 50,000 a year. Meanwhile, cases of STDs have grown at a high rate.

In Texas alone, roughly 70,000 people live with HIV while another 17,000 are unaware of their HIV+ status. More narrowly, 58.1% of these patients were men who engaged in sex with other men. This connection between same sex relations and HIV is consistent across each state.

While these numbers remain true, “resources targeted on effecting change for populations at highest risk have been disproportionately low.” It seems that this problem may stem from the majority of clinicians having no training in dealing with LGBT patients, and even avoiding “discussions of risk behaviors or identifying sexual orientation or gender identity.” Although here has been some training, the act is extremely rare and not thorough enough to make the difference it needs.

Makadon says that he wasn’t expecting to work in the more conservative states, but found it to be an interesting experience when conversing with the medical teams. Healthcare professionals have voiced their concerns “about how they should weigh their personal values with professional values they held to provide care for all…” They then answered “their own questions recognizing that when in clinical settings professional values to care for all, including LGBT people, takes precedence.” Still, not all providers see this issue eye-to-eye.

However, there is a lot that is being done for equality in care such as nondiscrimination acts and funding for health centers tailored to treating and caring for LGBT patients. While there have only been small and irregular steps in progress, the “Open Arms Healthcare Center in Jackson is a landmark for LGBT health.” Over time, the initiative will gain momentum and eventually prove to be an immensely positive reform for everyone.

(Quotes via http://www.hivplusmag.com/opinion/guest-voices/2013/02/19/op-ed-changing-attitudes-toward-lgbt-health-south)

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