The fight for access to affordable, quality healthcare without discrimination has long been part of the LGBTQ+ movement and one of the areas that still falls short of equal access. Black Americans who identify as LGBTQ+ experience racism and homophobia in their everyday lives. Moreover, Black LGBTQ+ Americans are also more likely to experience some form of racism when accessing medical services.
The first step to addressing these issues is making conscious and consistent efforts to actively support learning and change by increasing awareness of health issues and how they intersect with race, sexual orientation, and gender identity. Some of this can be satisfied by implementing ongoing cultural humility trainings. What is taught in the trainings should then be supported by policies and services that meet the specific needs of this underserved and understudied community.
Because the healthcare needs of Black LGBTQ+ Americans lack data-driven studies, it’s difficult to pinpoint the number of health issues among Black queer men and women. However, a recent Williams Institute study suggests that high rates of poverty and lower rates of insurance, coupled with engaging in risky behaviors such as smoking and alcohol use, contribute to this population suffering from more frequent health issues like asthma, cancer, and depression. Moreover, for Black queer men, engaging in risky sexual behavior can be linked to mental health concerns, which can contribute to the disproportionality of Black queer men contracting HIV and living with HIV, compared to other queer and heterosexual men.
In addition, the pandemic has brought to light that Black Americans are highly impacted by COVID-19. As a result, there have been high rates of COVID-19 related deaths among Black Americans who also suffer high rates of asthma, hypertension, and obesity – a difficult trifecta to overcome if diagnosed with COVID-19.
To address the healthcare needs specific to the LGBTQ+ population in Nevada, Silver State Equality, Nevada’s state-wide LGBTQ+ civil rights organization, works on parallel paths to impact policy change at the legislative level and community level. We also work directly with those affected by healthcare delivery discrimination to provide access to programs that provide solutions to health-related issues.
Through community outreach activities like our first National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day Dinner that included distribution of free HIV and COVID tests, our “Vaccinated and Proud” campaign, and our HIV Prevention and Education Program, Silver State Equality continues to work diligently to provide the LGBTQ+ community with accurate information and education on a variety of pertinent health issues.
Moreover, Silver State Equality routinely participates in community events to provide much needed information on health-related issues such as smoking cessation, gender affirming care and access to healthcare. We’re also utilizing social media platforms to provide much needed, real-time, information.
Moving forward, as we enter the next phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, Silver State Equality continues to take lessons learned from “listening sessions” conducted in partnership with the UNLV School of Public Health regarding the impact of COVID-19 on the LGBTQ+ community with the goal of building trust through meaningful outreach and dialogue.
This is an especially important lesson for healthcare providers who must add to their repertoire the ability to talk genuinely with members of the LGBTQ+ community about sexual orientation and gender identity to provide relevant and quality healthcare.