Washington, DC, 3 October 2013 (PAHO/WHO) — Health authorities from throughout the Americas pledged to promote equitable access to health care for lesbians, homosexuals, bisexuals and transsexuals (LGBT), during the 52nd Directing Council meeting of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), which is being held this week in Washington, D.C.
Ministers of health and other delegates from North, South and Central America and the Caribbean approved a resolution in which they committed to promote equal access to health care in their countries’ policies, plans and legislation.
PAHO Director Carissa F. Etienne expressed support for the resolution, saying everyone has the right to health care and adding that PAHO would work with its member countries to address these issues.
The resolution, presented by the United States and supported by delegates from other PAHO member countries, calls for efforts to overcome stigma and discrimination against LGBTs in the health sector, which often prevents them from accessing needed health services. It also calls for respect for the human dignity and the right to health of LGBT people as well as greater awareness of the diversity of gender expression and gender identity.
“The barriers that LGBT people face in accessing health services—ranging from disrespectful treatment to denial of care—contribute to poor health outcomes,” said Nils Daulaire, assistant secretary for global affairs of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), in presenting the resolution.
Barriers to care for LGBT people include outright denial of care, poor care, disrespectful treatment or even abuse, restrictions against including significant individuals in family treatment of in support and decision-making roles, inappropriate assumptions about the causes of health or behavioral conditions, avoidance of treatment, and poor understanding on the part of health providers of the specific health-care needs of LGBT persons, including trauma-related and behavioral health issues related to discrimination.
LGBT persons experience worse health disparities and outcomes than heterosexual persons in every country across the globe. They have higher rates of depression, anxiety, tobacco use, alcohol abuse, suicide or suicidal ideation, as a result of chronic stress, social isolation, and disconnectedness from a range of health and support services.
The stigma and discrimination experienced by LGBT people in the health sector often keeps them from accessing health services when they need them. The resolution calls for eliminating inequalities in health, including those associated with gender identity and gender expression.
Etienne said PAHO would prepare a report on the health status of LGBT persons and the barriers they face in accessing health-care services, as well as the impact of that reduced access, to help find solutions to these problems.
PAHO is the world’s oldest international public health organization. It works with all the countries of the Americas to improve the health and quality of life of their peoples.
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