Recognizing the needs of lesbian, bisexual, and transgender women

Two women hugging

Lesbian, bisexual, and transgender women face health disparities linked to social discrimination and denial of their civil and human rights. These disparities1 include the following:

  • Lesbians are less likely to get preventive services for cancer.
  • Lesbians and bisexual females are more likely to be overweight or obese.
  • Transgender women are more at risk for HIV and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), violence, mental health issues, and suicide and are less likely to have health insurance.
  • Bisexual women are at greater risk of rape, physical violence, and stalking than lesbian and heterosexual women.2

As a result of these disparities, HHS set up the first-ever Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Issues Coordinating Committee in 2010.3 The committee developed a set of recommendations, first released in 2011 and updated annually.

Since 2010, HHS agencies have taken several actions to promote equal treatment of LGBT Americans, provide additional resources for LGBT health issues, and develop better information about LGBT health needs. CMS has increased enforcement of hospital visitation rights, and HHS has updated guidelines about medical decision-making. CMS has also clarified Medicaid and Medicare rules about spousal protections and rights to include same-sex partners.4 To help disseminate this information, and other important health information and assistance, AOA has created a national resource center for older LGBT people.5 In March 2011, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released a report commissioned by NIH on the state of the science of LGBT health. The report provides the scientific community with the first comprehensive overview of research on LGBT health issues — an important step in identifying research gaps and opportunities.6 In October 2011, HRSA released Women’s Health USA 2011, with the first-ever feature focus on the health of lesbian and bisexual women. Since January 2013, the CDC has included a sexual orientation-specific question on the National Health Interview Survey to further improve data on the health of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender populations.7 Learn more about other HHS actions on improving LGBT health.

Today, the 2010 Affordable Care Act is also improving care and access to health coverage for lesbian, bisexual, and transgender women. This is important because studies have shown that health disparities related to sexual orientation and gender identity are due in part to lower rates of health coverage.8

Sources

  1. HealthyPeople.gov, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Health - Overview
  2. CDC, Intimate Partner Violence in the United States — 2010
  3. HHS, HHS LGBT Issues Coordinating Committee 2012 Report
  4. HHS, Better Health and Well-Being
  5. AOA, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT)
  6. NIH, Statement by NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., on opportunities for advancing LGBT health research
  7. HHS, HHS LGBT Issues Coordinating Committee 2013 Report
  8. HHS, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Recommended Actions to Improve the Health and Well-Being of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Communities