LGBTQ* individuals may have some specific and unique healthcare needs. According to the Gay Lesbian Medical Association (GLMA), "many healthcare providers don’t fully understand these issues.” They recommend that you “take charge of your health by asking your healthcare provider about the health matters that may apply to you.”
This list was modified from The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and GLMA as common health issues that may affect individuals who identify as LGBTQ*. All of these health issues may not apply to you, but it is helpful to be aware of them.
Talk to your doctor about these issues, even if they don’t bring it up.
Remember, try to be open and honest with your medical providers. Tell your provider about your gender identity and sexual orientation. Be honest about your sex life and use of drugs or alcohol. This will help your doctor to provide the best care possible for you.
- Come Out to your healthcare provider – Talk to your provider about your sexual orientation and gender identity so they can provide the best healthcare for you. All information shared with your medical provider is confidential and will not be shared with others without your permission. Even if you are under 18 years of age, your medical provider may not have to share this information with your parents without your consent, but talk to your doctor about the limits of confidentiality.
- Identify a safe space and support network – All adolescents and young adults should identify people they feel comfortable talking openly and honestly and can disclose their true identity. This may include a family member, teacher, therapist, medical provider or friend.
- HIV/AIDs, Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and safe sex – Be honest about your sexual activities and your sexual partners so your provider can screen you appropriately for infections or birth control options. Talk to your doctor to see if HIV PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) may be right for you.
- Weight/fitness and body image – LGBTQ* individuals may have an increased risk of unhealthy eating or exercise patterns. Obesity and eating disorders are common medical conditions which should be discussed with your provider.
- Substance use – Alcohol, cigarette, vaping and drug experimentation or abuse are extremely common. Be honest with your provider about your use of drugs and alcohol.
- Depression/suicide – rates of depression and suicide are significantly higher in the LGBTQ* community, especially among youth and those who have not come out. Talk to your doctor if you’ve been feeling down, angry or depressed or if you’ve had thoughts of wanting to hurt yourself or kill yourself. Your medical provider can help you get help. Early diagnosis and treatment of these conditions is important.
- Human Papillomavirus (HPV) – HPV is the most common STI in the United States. HPV may cause genital warts or cancer (most commonly cervical, anal, head and neck cancers) though most individuals with HPV have no symptoms at all. LGBTQ* individuals may be at an increased risk for contracting this infection. Talk to your doctor to see if the HPV vaccine is right for you to protect you against some strains of HPV.
- Thoughts or Goals for Transitioning – Tell your provider your chosen name and pronoun. Talk to your provider about goals of pursuing medication like puberty blockers or gender affirming hormones or gender affirming surgery. Your provider can help refer you to specialists to help guide you through your transition process safely.
- Interpersonal violence – Talk to your provider about any unsafe relationships. They can help create a safety plan and provide appropriate resources.
GLMA Health Professionals Advancing LGBTQ Equality. “Top Ten Issues to Discuss with Your Healthcare Provider.”
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. “Top Health Issues for LGBT Populations Information and Resource Kit.” HHS Publication No. (SMA) 12-4684. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2012.