Doctors must address health gaps among gay and transgender patients, expert says

Published: March 11, 2015

Amy Yurkanin
Original Article:

Doctors need to talk to patients about gender identity and sexual orientation, in order to help close the health gaps between straight patients and those who are gay and transgender, said one expert during a Wednesday presentation at UAB.

Gay, lesbian and transgender patients face many health challenges. The community has high rates of suicide and substance abuse, and the majority of new cases of HIV still occur among men who have sex with men.

But few physicians talk to patients about sexual behavior, desires and issues of identity, said Dr. Harvey Makadon, director of the National LGBT Health Education Center at the Fenway Institute in Boston.

"You can see there’s an avoidance of the intimate," Makadon said.

Doctors who don’t talk about gender identity or sexual orientation may be missing out on a major part of patients’ lives, and failing to address issues that may affect physical and mental health.

The statistics are daunting, especially in the transgender community. Transgender people endure high rates of violent crime, poverty and sexually-transmitted diseases. Nearly a third of transgender women have HIV, a rate that is 49 times higher than other adults of reproductive age, Makadon said.

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