As the new administration in Washington massively shifts national priorities, an opportunity has presented itself for the LGBTQ community to speak up and to be certain that our long-neglected healthcare needs are both recognized and addressed.
The Gay Men's Health Agenda is a significant document which grew out of a grassroots effort within the gay men's health movement. After soliciting comments from gay men around the country, a draft was presented for feedback at the Gay Men's Health Summit in Seattle in October, 2008, and the final version has now been published.
The Agenda is significant because it urges policy makers to recognize that the health care needs of gay men extend far beyond HIV/AIDS, and include mental health, substance abuse, external and internalized homophobia, and a sometimes appalling lack of cultural competency of many health care providers in recognizing and appropriately treating the health of the gay, lesbian, and trans community.
This is even more vital as the federal government is now drafting "Health People 2020," which will serve as a roadmap for spending priorities over the next decade. Gays and lesbians have been virtually absent from federal health priorities. This Agenda pushes for change.
Recommendations specific to gay men's health include funding and expanding social, behavioral, and biomedical research; developing and collecting data on sexual orientation and gender identity in federal research; funding campaigns to combat homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia; and eliminating bans on "promotion" of any type of sexual behavior, which impairs effective health campaigns. Other recommendations include creating strategies to combat health disparities, funding sexual health and wellness, and removing barriers to health care for transgender people.
Similar efforts for lesbian health include the Lesbian Health Fund of the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association. Health care disparities continue to grow for all of us in the LGBTQ community. These efforts are an important step in making our voices heard. Whether you participate by contributing to a similar document or by calling or emailing your representatives, be sure yours is among them!