By Tara Cavanaugh
LGBT Health Week, put on by the National Coaltion for LGBT Health, shines a spotlight on the troubling health issues that the community faces across the nation. This year, the awareness week takes place March 28 – April 1. Matthew Rose, who works for the coalition, talked with BTL about this year’s theme and how to get involved.
What is LGBT Health Week?
There’s a very low level of knowledge of awareness around LGBT health issues and health disparities. And one of the ways that we want to address that is having a week that celebrates LGBT health but also brings attention to the kinds of permanent changes that need to be made in order to address those disparities.
What are some of the health issues that face this community?
Some of the most prevalent ones are increased STIs among gay and bisexual men and STDs. Some numbers show that generally, our community suffers from these problems up to 200 percent more than the general population. We have high rates of specific types of cancer, especially among lesbian women who are not encouraged to go see gynecologists. We also have higher rates of mental health issues and substance abuse issues that go untreated.
What are some events and initiatives planned for this year’s health week?
This year we’re doing a drive to get stories about the difficulties LGBTs face when trying to access health care. We’re also working on getting some of our big major national medical partners and other policy-related organizations to have statements that support LGBT health and show commitment to ending disparities in accessing care.
For example, one of our partners, the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association, is trying to get the American Medical Association to sign this kind of statement. The AMA has signed a statement before, saying they’re supportive of LGBT issues, so it’s just a matter of trying to get them to have a more formalized, specific statement.
We also have a sticker campaign this year with the logo of “Come out for health.” We’re trying to brand the stickers for health providers to use. If providers had that sticker up, people would know that their office is LGBT-friendly.
We’re mailing out stickers and post cards right now and we have order forms online so people can get them from us.