Archive for the 'World Health Organization (WHO)' Category

Bringing LGBT Health Care to the World Health Organization

Repost from The Huffington Post

Around the world lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals face worse health outcomes than the general population. We know the problem is in part due to the barriers they face to accessing health care. But because there is relatively little health research on this population globally, the true scope of the global burden is difficult to calculate.

These barriers range from denial of care, to inadequate or substandard care, to simply an unwillingness to go to a doctor because of discrimination or, in some countries, criminal penalties. Data confirms that within the community there are higher rates of depression and substance abuse; lesbian and bisexual women are at a greater risk of obesity and breast cancer; gay men are at higher risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections; elderly LGBT individuals face additional barriers to health because of isolation; and transgender individuals have higher rates of alcohol and tobacco use, are at higher risk for heart disease and are less likely to have health insurance than heterosexual or LGB individuals.

The World Health Organization (WHO) — the health body of the United Nations — has led efforts to reduce health disparities for women, ethnic, racial and religious minorities, those with disabilities, and others who have struggled to attain the health care they need. We think it is timely for WHO to take this same leadership role for the LGBT population. During the May 2013 WHO Executive Board meeting, the topic of what WHO should be doing on this front was scheduled to be discussed. Continue Reading

For the First Time in History, the World Health Organization (WHO) Vigorously Debated LGBT Health

United Nations GenevaOn May 29, the Executive Board of the WHO, comprised of 34 member states, discussed an item titled “Improving the Health and Well-Being of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender People” for six hours at the United Nations in Geneva.

The item had been initiated by Thailand and the United States, but was objected by Nigeria and Egypt, on behalf of two of the six WHO regions.  Countries lined up clearly in support or in opposition to discussing LGBT people’s health issues as a legitimate public health topic. Opposing countries were exceedingly vocal in their discomfort with the topic, sometimes displaying extreme homophobia during the discussions. Support for the issue came from Asia, Latin America, Europe, and North America. The debate ended by striking the item from the agenda of this meeting, but with the assurance that the topic will return to the next meeting of the body under a different title that is more acceptable to the different regions represented at the WHO.

Department of Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary for Global Affairs Nils Daulaire, representing the United States at the meeting, argued, “The United States understands that access to care for LGBT persons is a sensitive issue for many Member States. It is sensitive in my own country. However, debating and seeking common ground on sensitive issues is one of the key reasons we all do the work we do. If there were clear and simple answers we wouldn’t have to be here….We have raised this issue as a health issue; we leave the rights debate to other bodies.”

Reports from every region of the world show that LGBT citizens lack equal access to health care and experience real discrimination based on exposing their sexual orientation, sexuality, gender identity, or gender expression in health care settings. Such discrimination takes many different forms, including outright denial of services, harassment, embarrassment, violence and arrest, as well as internalized stigma and shame. Such experiences lead directly and indirectly to bad health outcomes.

WHO has a clear recent history of a people-centered approach to the health needs of particularly vulnerable populations – women, disabled, indigenous people, the elderly, slum residents and others. Working to address the specific health challenges of LGBT populations is a logical, and indeed critical, next step for WHO in its efforts to improve vital and universal access to health care.

Ironically, despite the very contentious nature of the debate about whether to discuss the issue at all, the body discussed the topic for more than one-third of the two-day meeting. And despite extreme anti-LGBT statements by many governments, representatives from all over the world, including and especially some from Africa and the Middle East, re-affirmed their commitment to providing access to health to all citizens, without discrimination on any basis, including sexual orientation, gender, or other status.


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