6 minute read
5 pressing health issues affecting the LGBTQ+ community
Published June 8th, 2023
Everyone deserves access to high-quality, inclusive care—regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The LGBTQ+ community continues to face numerous health issues that affect their overall health and well-being. While some of these issues are widely recognized, others don't get the attention they deserve. This article hopes to change that.
1. Not having a healthcare provider
The fear of discrimination is a very real concern for many members of the LGBTQ+ community. Many people feel they have been denied proper care or have experienced harassment, while others have felt uncomfortable in various healthcare settings. These experiences can lead to people avoiding care altogether. And even when they do seek care, they often don't feel they receive the same respect and sensitivity that should be standard of care for all patients.
By asking the right questions and utilizing the resources available, you can find a healthcare provider who respects you and provides the care you need. Below are a few ways to finding the right healthcare provider for you:
- Call the medical practice and ask them if they currently have any LGBTQ+ patients. If you’re concerned about asking, remember—you don’t have to give your name or any identifying information during this call.
- One of the best ways to find a healthcare provider is through word of mouth. Talk to trusted friends who are also members of the LGBTQ+ community to see who they recommend. Ask about their experiences and what they liked or disliked about their healthcare provider.
- LGBTQ+ centers are great resources for finding healthcare providers who are sensitive and understand the needs of the community. They can provide information on local clinics and doctors who specialize in treating LGBTQ+ patients. Find a community center near you: CenterLink LGBT Community Center Member Directory
- The World Professional Association for Transgender Health offers a searchable online directory of medical professionals to help you find care: WPATH - Provider Directory Search
It’s worth noting that a doctor visit is not required to purchase lab tests from questhealth.com. When your results are ready, you have the option of speaking with an independent physician at no extra cost.
2. Mental health
Fifty years ago, a milestone decision was made by the American Psychiatric Association to remove homosexuality as a mental disorder from its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. This was a huge victory for the LGBTQ+ community and paved the way for more progress. However, significant challenges still exist, such as mental health issues stemming from continued stigma and mistreatment.
Research shows that members of the LGBTQ+ community are at a higher risk for experiencing mental health conditions, especially depression and anxiety disorders.¹ But being a member of the LGBTQ+ community doesn't automatically mean struggling with mental health. It's the discrimination and prejudice in society that can put them at higher risk.
Below are 10 factors that can contribute to the increased risk of mental health conditions:
- Coming out
- Gender dysphoria
- Sexual abuse
- Bullying, harassment, and violence
- Systemic discrimination
- Substance use
- Inadequate mental healthcare
- Lack of social support
While Quest doesn’t directly offer mental health resources to customers, we believe mental health is key to one’s overall well-being.
If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, or would like emotional support, text or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 for 24/7 support that is always free and confidential.
3. Non-inclusive medical screenings
Regular medical screenings are essential for maintaining good health and preventing serious illnesses like cancer. However, medical screenings have often been framed according to gender. For example, mammograms are typically offered to cisgender women, although breast cancer affects people of any gender. This perspective not only ignores those who don't identify as a certain gender, but also puts people at risk of missing out on vital screening.
A gender-neutral approach to medical screening is essential to ensure that everyone receives the care they need. This approach focuses on screening according to body parts, and not by gender. Because cancer doesn’t discriminate, neither should medical screenings.
Medical screenings should be offered to everyone who needs them, according to guidelines and individual risk factors. It’s also important for healthcare providers to offer and approach these screenings in a respectful and sensitive way. This can help to ease the anxiety and emotional distress that screening can sometimes cause, and help people feel comfortable and confident about completing necessary screenings and accessing care they feel good about.
4. Heart disease
Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death worldwide, claiming nearly 17.9 million lives every year.² A study by the American Heart Association found that LGBTQ+ adults are more likely to have worse heart health than their heterosexual peers. The study found that³:
- LGBTQ+ adults are more likely to use tobacco than other adults
- Bisexual men have twice the odds of having high blood pressure as heterosexual men
- Lesbian and bisexual women tend to have higher obesity rates than heterosexualwomen
- Lesbian and bisexual women tend to get less sleep, which is a risk factor for high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease
Additionally, data on the impact of hormone therapy on heart disease risk is limited and often conflicting. Some research suggests transgender women taking hormone therapy may be at a higher risk of heart attack, stroke, and blood clots. However, current evidence doesn't suggest the same for transgender men receiving hormone therapy.⁴
LGBTQ+ adults often face increased stress (discrimination, lack of access to healthcare) that may affect their heart health throughout their lives.³ Stress in general is harmful to the heart and can lead to unhealthy habits like smoking and overeating. Long-term stress can increase the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease. To improve and maintain heart health, the American Heart Association recommends Life’s Essential 8TM for improving and maintaining heart health⁵:
- Eat better
- Be more active
- Quit tobacco
- Get healthy sleep
- Manage weight
- Control cholesterol
- Manage blood sugar
- Manage blood pressure
In addition to lifestyle changes, it’s important for the LGBTQ+ community to have access to regular healthcare. This includes preventive screenings and check-ups to catch issues before they become more serious. By addressing heart disease and other health issues early on, people can get the treatment they need to live healthier lives
Are you interested in knowing more about your heart health? Choose from a variety of lab tests and find the right one for you:
- Cholesterol (Lipid) Panel measures your levels of total cholesterol, HDL (good), LDL (bad), and triglycerides
- hsCRP Test for Inflammation Marker checks your risk of developing cardiovascular disease
- High-Risk Heart Health Lipid and Lp(a) Panel helps determine your risk for heart disease, heart attack, and stroke
- Hemoglobin A1c measures your average blood sugar level over the past 3 months. High A1c levels are strongly associated with an increased risk of heart disease
5. Sexually transmitted infections/diseases (STIs & STDs), including HIV
While rates of HIV are higher among members of the LGBTQ+ community, HIV by no means only affects LGBTQ+ people. Anyone who has sex with another person is at risk for an STD/STI, including HIV. Having an STD, or even a history of certain STDs/STIs (like gonorrhea or chlamydia), can make it easier to get or spread HIV. HIV can also be spread through IV drug use.
So, how can you prevent getting STDs and HIV?
- Get tested for STIs/STDs, including HIV. A proactive approach to your sexual health is critical to protecting both you and your sexual partners.
- Use condoms the right way every time you have sex.
- Don't share needles.
- Talk to your partner(s) about STDs and HIV, and consider getting tested together.
- Talk to a healthcare professional about your HIV risk and develop a plan to prevent HIV, including finding out if PrEP treatment is right for you. PrEP is a treatment that can help you prevent HIV. It's very effective, safe, and easy to take.
The only way to know for sure if you have an STD or HIV is to get tested. Shop online for STD tests—get your results fast, discreetly, and with the option to discuss them with an independent physician at no extra cost.
The Chlamydia & Gonorrhea Test can tell you whether you have these common sexually transmitted diseases so they can be treated.
If you're concerned about your HIV status, Quest offers a reliable HIV test that can detect and confirm HIV infection, even in its early stages: HIV 1 & 2 with Confirmation Testing.
The STD Basic Screening Panel checks for 5 of the most common sexually transmitted infections: chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, HIV-1, and HIV-2.
The STD Extended Screening Panel checks for 8 sexually transmitted infections: chlamydia, gonorrhea, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, trichomoniasis, syphilis, HIV-1, and HIV-2.
No doctor visit is required to buy your own lab test at questhealth.com. PWNHealth and its affiliates review your purchase to ensure its medically appropriate before submitting the test order for processing. PWNHealth also reviews your test results and will contact you directly if they require prompt attention. Included in each purchase is the option to discuss your test results with an independent physician; however, you are also encouraged to speak with your primary health care provider.
- American Psychiatric Association. Mental Health Disparities: LGBTQ. Accessed May 23, 2023. https://www.psychiatry.org/File%20Library/Psychiatrists/CulturalCompetency/Mental-Health-Disparities/Mental-Health-Facts-for-LGBTQ.pdf
- World Health Organization. Cardiovascular Diseases. Accessed May 24, 2023. https://www.who.int/health-topics/cardiovascular-diseases.
- Caceres BA, Streed CG Jr, Corliss HL, Lloyd-Jones DM, Matthews PA, Mukherjee M, Poteat T, Rosendale N, Ross LM; on behalf of the American Heart Association Council on Cardiovascular and Stroke Nursing; Council on Hypertension; Council on Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health; Council on Peripheral Vascular Disease; and Stroke Council. Assessing and addressing cardiovascular health in LGBTQ adults: a scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2020;142:e321-e332. doi: 10.1161/CIR.0000000000000914
- Chan Swe N, Ahmed S, Eid M, Poretsky L, Gianos E, Cusano NE. The effects of gender-affirming hormone therapy on cardiovascular and skeletal health: A literature review. Metabol Open. 2022;13:100173. Published 2022 Mar 3. doi:10.1016/j.metop.2022.100173
- American Heart Association. Life Essentials 8. Accessed May 24, 2023. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-lifestyle/lifes-essential-8.
- UCSF Center of Excellence for Transgender Health. Primary care protocol for transgender patient care. Accessed May 19, 2023. http://transhealth.ucsf.edu/protocols.
- Cleveland Clinic Journey of Medicine. Best practices in LGBT care: A guide for primary care physicians. Accessed May 23, 2023. https://www.ccjm.org/content/83/7/531.
- Human Rights Campaign. Mental Health Resources in the LGBTQ Community. Accessed May 24, 2023. https://www.hrc.org/resources/mental-health-resources-in-the-lgbtq-community.
- The Trevor Project. Mental Health. Accessed May 26, 2023. https://www.thetrevorproject.org/resources/category/mental-health/.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. STDs and HIV – CDC Basic Fact Sheet. Accessed May 26, 2023. https://www.cdc.gov/std/hiv/stdfact-std-hiv.htm.
- World Health Organization. HIV and AIDS. Accessed May 26, 2023. https://www.who.int/newsroom/fact-sheets/detail/hiv-aids.