Later this month (from March 26-30), people all over the world will take part in the LGBT Health Awareness Week, online and in their respective communities as well. The week was created by the National Coalition For LGBT Health in the U.S., with the stated purpose of “promoting increased health awareness and outcomes in the LGBT community” and for “promoting the need for greater cultural competency in the health care system.” As much a social movement as a specific initiative or piece of activism, this week calls on people to organize their own events in support of the general goals just stated above
To be clear, the designation of the week for the LGBT community does not mean that its initiatives focus exclusively on sexuality, or issues related to sexual health. For sexual health and safety information, Adam & Eve’s safer sex guide functions as a useful tool to keep in hand, both for general education and for reminders. This sort of comprehensive guide can and should guide individuals through the basic needs and practices of sexual safety. For this reason, LGBT Health Awareness Week is not meant, in a specific sense, as an initiative akin to sexual education. Rather, it is meant as a much broader conversation about health care and practices for members of the LGBT community and others too.
To provide a better idea of what LGBT Health Awareness Week is all about, the SAGE Blog—a wonderful site full of information on a huge range of LGBT community issues—provided some fascinating information and statistics relevant to the conversation. Within the bullet points was a 2011 national health study, reporting disproportionately high percentages of LGBT adults dealing with common health issues like obesity and arthritis in addition to mental health issues like depression and even thoughts of suicide. The site also reported that LGBT adults often “delay care out of fear of discrimination from health providers, which means that illnesses go undetected until crisis hits.” This language was written in advance of the 2013 Awareness Week, but rest assured it remains relevant today.
This is what’s at the core of the LGBT Health Awareness Week: while sexual education and safe sex practices are pertinent to the greater conversation, that conversation itself is about recognising the need for equality in health care, openness in communities, and the availability of treatment options. The fact of the matter is, most in the LGBT community do still receive inadequate healthcare, either due to direct discrimination on the part of providers or because of the legitimate fear or unease of such conditions. LGBT Health Awareness Week seeks to simultaneously bring these issues to light and set about putting an end to them. To get in on the action, you can follow the National Coalition For LGBT Health on Facebook and Twitter.