Sat | Mar 17, 2018

PAHO says stigma, discrimination major barriers to health for LGBT people in region

Published:Wednesday | December 14, 2016 | 11:08 AM
In this file photo a policeman stands watch over some allegedly gay men who were removed from a house on Millsborough Avenue in St Andrew yesterday.

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) says stigma and discrimination are major barriers to health for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people throughout the Americas, including the Caribbean.

“By universal health, we mean that everyone – irrespective of their socioeconomic background, ethnicity, gender or race-is covered by a well-financed, well-organised health system offering quality and comprehensive health services,” said PAHO Director Dominican-born director Dr Carissa F. Etienne.

In an addressing to an event here marking Universal Health Day and Human Rights Day, she said “stigma and discrimination are a major barrier for access and utilisation of health services for LGBT persons, hence the importance to better understand the causes and develop innovative health system responses to meet their specific and differentiated needs”.

Etienne pointed to research, which she said, shows that stigma against homosexuality and ignorance about gender identity are widespread, both in society at large and within health systems.

“Discrimination can result in outright refusal to provide care, poor-quality care, and disrespectful or abusive treatment, among others,” she said.

“Healthcare providers may also have a poor understanding of the specific healthcare needs of LGBT people, for example, trauma-related and behavioural health issues that they face as a result of discrimination.”

PAHO’s Legal Counsel Heidi Jiménez said that, in 2013, PAHO member-states “resolved to address these and other problems that lead to health inequities for LGBT people by collectively endorsing a resolution, titled ‘Addressing the Causes of Disparities in Health Services Access and Utilization for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Trans (LGBT) Persons.’”

During the event, PAHO said panelists from Brazil and Canada described concrete action their countries have taken to address LGBT stigma and discrimination, and protect LGBT persons’ health and human rights.

The Public Health Agency of Canada is supporting community-based projects that support the health of survivors of family violence, including trans-persons, PAHO said.