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.”
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and GLMA have identified the issues listed below 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.
Top Issues for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexually, Transgender Individuals
- 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.
- 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.
- Hepatitis immunizations and screening – You may be at risk for contracting hepatitis, a group of viruses that affect the liver. Talk to your doctor about screening you for Hepatitis A, B and C and see if the Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B vaccines may be right for you.
- Weight/fitness – 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 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.
- Organ-specific cancers – Individuals may be at an increased for prostate, testicular, breast, cervical and colon cancer. Cancer screening should be based on an individual’s organs, specific risk factors and age. For example, any individual with a cervix, regardless of gender identity, should undergo cervical cancer screening routinely starting at 21 years old.
- 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.
- Hormones – Tell your provider what hormones you are taking so they can monitor you appropriately for possible side effects. Only take hormones prescribed by your provider.
- Heart health – LGBTQ* individuals may be at increased risk of developing heart disease. Obesity, smoking, alcohol use and hormones may increase that risk.
- Injectable silicone – According to GLMA, Silicone “is usually not medical grade, may be contaminated and is often injected using a shared needle.” “Silicone is dangerous and should not be used.”
- 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.