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More Culturally Aware Doctors Needed To Serve LGBTQ Community

Creative Commons

The LGBTQ community faces unique health care needs. And Columbus Public Health wants to educate doctors about how to be more culturally aware when they treat gay and lesbian patients. The health department is holding a two-day health equity conference.

Members of the LGBTQ community are more likely to attempt suicide, abuse alcohol and drugs more often, and have higher HIV and STD infection rates.

They get fewer preventive screenings.

They face higher health care costs, but they are less likely to have health insurance.

And when gay and lesbian individuals have access to medical care, Columbus Public Health’s LGBTQ Health Program Director Julia Applegate said they may not feel comfortable with their provider.  

"For people who are not always feeling comfortable in their bodies because the world is telling us that we’re not comfortable or we’re not OK, I think that goes a long way towards people not seeking that care," she said.  

Columbus Public Health is hosting the health equity event at Ohio State University's Fawcett Center through Saturday to educate doctors and offer health screenings for the gay community. 

Applegate said attendees will be able to receive basic preventive health screenings, including mammograms on site. 

The federal government reports lesbians are less likely to get screened for breast and cervical cancer.

“There’s a misperception that lesbian women, because they’re not engaged in heterosexual sex, that they’re not at risk," Applegate said. "I think it’s not understanding what the risk factors are. It’s discomfort with the physician. Is my physician going to be safe?” 

Columbus Public Health has comprised a list of local doctors who have received training about the special health care needs of LGBTQ individuals.

"Evaluated providers who are culturally competent. They've had training. They are going to ask questions in a sensitive manner," Applegate said. 

She noted the city has 42 health care providers evaluated for the training. While she said that’s a solid number, it’s not nearly enough to serve Columbus’ LGBTQ population of 70,000 people.

And there aren't providers to serve everyone's needs. 

“What do you do if you are a transgender person and you need an emergency hysterectomy, and you physically appear as male?" Applegate asked. "We don’t have a provider in our listings for that person.”