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Supporting LGBTQ+ communities in public health

June 29, 2020 by PATH

For many cities and countries around the world, June is acknowledged as Pride month, as well as the anniversary of the June 28, 1969, uprising at the Stonewall Inn—a moment in US history when the LGBTQ+ community fought back against oppression. Today, Pride is a global acknowledgment of these oppressions and a moment to reflect on the LGBTQ+ progress toward equity.

Yet, LGBTQ+ communities still experience disproportionate rates of some illnesses and injuries, and many individuals face stigma receiving appropriate and comprehensive health care services. Within the LGBTQ+ community, Black women—especially young Black transgender women—are at highest risk for violent death by assault and sexual assault. For all young adults in the United States, the chance of being murdered is 1 in 12,000. For young Black trans women, it is 1 in 2,600. Globally, data for violence toward the LGBTQ+ community are not systematically produced, making it impossible to understand the specific health challenges. There are still 75 countries that criminalize homosexuality, which prevents people from engaging with health systems without fear and diminishes the public health sector's ability to effectively prevent and treat illness in a community.

PATH works to achieve health equity so all people and communities can thrive. As a global organization whose work is rooted in equity, we fall short of our mission if we do not acknowledge the health disparities that exist within our global communities along the lines of gender identity and expression and sexual orientation as well as the further marginalization of people within the LGBTQ+ community created by racism and other systems of oppression. This acknowledgment is long overdue, and we make a commitment to approaching our public health programming through a feminist as well as an anti-racist lens.

Moving forward, we must ensure inclusive service delivery by engaging LGBTQ+ communities, understanding their specific needs, and tailoring solutions to help ensure equitable access to care. We must stand against all forms of violence and discrimination, and recognize more must be done to protect the most marginalized, especially the Black trans community. Health equity can only be achieved once we, the global public health community, learn more about the barriers to health this community faces and stand in solidarity against systemic racism.

Oppression is intersectional, so our health equity solutions should be too.