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National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the National Coalition for LGBT Health and National Black Justice Coalition celebrate LGBT Health Awareness Week

March 28, 2011

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the National Coalition for LGBT Health and the National Black Justice Coalition ask their members and supporters across the country to join in celebrating the 9th Annual National LGBT Health Awareness Week from March 28-April 1.

LGBT Health Awareness Week aims to bring attention to the devastating cycle of discrimination and health disparities that affects the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. Because LGBT people are regularly discriminated against in employment, relationship recognition and insurance coverage, they are more likely to get sick and less likely to be able to afford vital health care than their straight and non-transgender neighbors.

LGBT people and their families also experience high rates of anti-LGBT violence, the stress of coping with discrimination and a widespread lack of LGBT cultural competency in the health care system. This year’s LGBT Health Awareness Week theme, “Come Out for Health,” encourages LGBT people, health care providers and policymakers to work together to eliminate the health disparities affecting the LGBT community and to promote better health and well-being for all LGBT people and their families.

A major factor that contributes to LGBT health disparities is the fact that LGBT people are roughly twice as likely to be uninsured than the general population. According to a recent report, 22 percent of gay and lesbian respondents reported having no insurance, compared to only 12 percent of heterosexual adults, and rates of lack of insurance are even higher for bisexual and transgender people.

Similarly, LGBT people are more likely to delay or not seek necessary medical care, and one in five transgender and gender non-conforming people have been refused care altogether. Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, a recent nationwide survey of more than 6,400 transgender people published by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, found that almost 30 percent of survey respondents had experienced harassment or violence in health care settings, and that a shocking 50 percent of respondents had to teach their medical providers about appropriate care for transgender people.

Studies reveal that LGBT people of color face even more significant challenges to maintaining health and wellness. The combined effect of racism and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity means that LGBT people of color experience additional stress, discrimination and barriers to care. In one study, black and Latina lesbians and bisexual women were found to have had their first Pap test at an older age, to have had fewer Pap tests in the previous five years, and to report a longer interval between their two most recent Pap tests than heterosexual women.

Further, according to Injustice at Every Turn, a majority of respondents of color relied on public insurance or had to get by with no insurance, while more white respondents had access to private insurance.

The evidence for LGBT health disparities is clear, and so is the devastating effect that these disparities have on LGBT people and their families. The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the National Coalition for LGBT Health and the National Black Justice Coalition urge advocates, health care providers and policymakers across the country to work together to end to discrimination against LGBT people, increase access to health care and ensure that all LGBT people and their families are treated with respect.

More information about National LGBT Health Awareness Week can be found at www.lgbthealth.net.

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