Tag Archives: health

Important Ways Parents Contribute to LGBT Teens Health

Many parents of teenagers have their hands full, to put it lightly. Being a parent is not an easy job. You have to work on your own issues and those of your children. LGBT teens have particular health issues that need to be addressed and many heterosexual parents are either not aware of them or they don’t know where to start when it comes to helping their teens be healthy. Here are some steps you can take to help your teenager:

Seek out a pediatrician who is LGBT-friendly
This is important because your child might not be comfortable with the doctor they had in childhood. You may find a healthcare provider that’s LGBT or who is an ally. In order to find out, you must ask them. It’s also possible that they will be listed online. The Gay and Lesbian Medical Association (GLMA) has a database that is searchable by zip code.

Look into mental health care
Even if your teenager doesn’t appear to have signs of mental distress, they might. They might need someone with whom they can speak and feel comfortable saying things that they may not with a parent. Check out GLMA’s website for this information if you want. Also, consider someone to talk with for your own needs.

Remember that safe sex is still important
If your teen is with a same-sex partner, they still need to learn about safe sex practices. Make sure they’re tested for HIV and STIs and follow up with testing regularly. Make sure they know how to protect themselves in many ways, including not allowing themselves to be pressured into having sex before they’re ready.

Important Ways Parents Contribute to LGBT Teens Health

Vaccinations are important
Health care providers are not recommending that the HPV vaccine Gardasil is given to girls and boys. It’s important to get them vaccinated. For example, health care providers recommend that men who have sex with men (MSM) are given vaccinations against Hepatitis A & B, HPV, and the flu (annually) to begin with.

Keep watch of their online personas
This is important for everyone, whether or not they have LGBT kids. Your children are vulnerable to being lured into unsafe experiences or relationships by predatory adults. Make sure to pay attention to their online activity and have talks with them about how they appear in their online world. A harsh and constant reality is that bullying and violence against LGBT people exists; this includes child abuse and exploitation.

Speak about substance use/abuse
LGBT people are at a higher risk for substance abuse. Talk with your kids about the risks and the pressures they might face. If your child has a problem, seek treatment.

Love them unconditionally
Good health depends a great deal on a child’s supportive, loving environment.

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LGBT Youth Experience More Cyber Bullying

LGBT youth face significant difficulties with discrimination, harassment and lack of family support.

It also happens that they face more harassment online–a place where many youth go to feel as if they’re more part of a community, receive support, medical information, and other opportunities . One study by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) found that LGBT youth faced cyber bullying three times more than non-LGBT youth. The study points out that those living in more rural areas experience even higher levels of harassment online and shows that 42 percent of LGBT youth face a higher level of online bullying, compared to 15 percent of those who are straight/cisgender. Part of the study resulted in findings that show LGBT youth were twice as likely to report bullying through text messages.

This study, called “Out Online: The Experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Youth on the Internet”, included results from a national survey which included 5,680 middle and high school students, grades 6-12. It was found that lower grade point average and self-esteem, and a higher chance of depression were linked to youth affected by bullying.

LGBT Youth Experience More Cyber Bullying

Dr. Eliza Byard, GLSEN’s Executive Director said, “LGBT youth continue to face extraordinary obstacles in their day-to-day lives whether at school or online, but the Internet can be a valuable source of information and support when they have no one or nowhere else left to turn to. As social media evolve, so must our efforts to serve LGBT youth to ensure their safety, health and well-being.”

It is important for LGBT youth to have access to resources available on the Internet that they either would not be able to find elsewhere, or that they don’t feel comfortable seeking offline.  For example, this study shows that LGBT youth (particularly those who are transgender) are twice as likely to look up medical information online than their straight/cisgender peers. It is vital that LGBT youth know they have a safe place to be themselves online, especially if they don’t feel that support elsewhere.

LGBT Health Disparities and Cancer

We don’t know a sufficient amount about cancer in the LGBT population.

There are specific prevention and treatment programs that have been designed for groups based on statistics. Such data comes from certain geographic, racial and ethnic groups. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people need to know exactly how prevalent cancer is among their groups because they currently don’t.

Even without official data, it’s pretty safe to say that LGBT people are disproportionately affected by cancer. There is plenty of research to confirm LGBT people have a specific “cluster of risk factors” that would give them greater incidence of cancer and diagnosis in a later stage. It is estimated that there are currently over 1 million LGBT cancer survivors in the US. This disproportionate amount of risk factors and burden of disease is referred to as “health disparities”.

Although there aren’t any biological or physiological differences between heterosexual and LGBT people, disparities exist due to a combination of economic and social factors and behaviors. These can frequently be linked to the stresses that come with living as a gender and/or sexual minority in the US.

LGBT Health Disparities and Cancer

One study of health disparities of lesbian, gay, and bisexual women found that bisexual women and lesbians were more likely than heterosexual women to:

  • Generally be in worse physical and mental health
  • Have asthma
  • Have diabetes
  • Be overweight
  • Smoke
  • Consume too much alcohol

This study showed that these women were at a higher risk for breast cancer and other cancers associated with alcohol abuse, obesity and smoking.

Health disparities in the LGBT community are not limited to cancer incidences. The quality of life for cancer survivors in the LGBT population is profoundly different from heterosexuals with regard to sexuality, relationships in general, and interactions with medical professionals. For example, gay and heterosexual men are affected much differently when it comes to changes in sexual function due to prostate cancer treatment. Unfortunately, few health care professionals will bother asking gay men about their sex lives or even know how to respond if the patient inquires about the issue. It is important that those in the LGBT community receive competent, compassionate medical treatment, with unique problems considered and addressed.

Bugchasing Becoming a Dangerous Trend

A well-known sexual act within the gay male population is, for many, a perplexing and scary idea.

It is considered extreme sexual taboo by those who engage in it.  It’s called “bug chasing”, which means one intentionally seeks to have sex with those infected with HIV (known as a “Gift giver”).  They seek to receive the “gift” of HIV.  Bug chasing is becoming more popular globally and, even though a minority seek this, the effects of it are felt by many more.

Bug chasing is associated with unprotected sex (barebacking), but extends to something much more dark.  HIV is no longer the death sentence it used to be, but it’s still not something most can come close to imagining they would want.  It would mean a lifetime of taking medications, visiting hospitals, getting blood drawn and very likely getting AIDS and dying.  Why would anyone choose this?

Bugchasing Becoming a Dangerous Trend

There are different reasons people claim to chase the “bug”.  Some say that they are self-harming and have suicidal ideations.  The most popular reason is that they are trying to avoid a lifetime of fear that revolves around possibly contracting HIV.

Even with protection, there’s still a chance to contract HIV.  To avoid this, some gay men take on the philosophy that avoiding this life of paranoia with regard to contracting HIV can be eased by “beating it to the chase”.

After all, they believe they’ll probably get it anyway, so why not have some control over the situation and not have to worry about catching it afterwards?  It’s a sad and unfortunate way to believe you must live.  After all, the majority of gay men do not abstain from sex and still live without contracting HIV. They are healthy and happy.

Other gay men who are “bug chasers” claim that they are turned on by the fact that they might become infected.  This dangerous, risk-taking chase excites them.  If one wants to get their bug-chasing needs met they can seek out a ‘conversion party’ that often involves those with and without HIV participating in unprotected sex with anyone.  The HIV status of all of the attendees are unknown, so you’d leave the party with your own status a mystery.  Internet apps are also tools that can be used to meet with people who want to chase the “bug” or give the “gift”.

It’s impossible, even after being given explanations, for many to wrap their heads around this phenomenon.   An obvious question that might arise is: Once you’ve been given the gift, do you still want it?

New Aggressive HIV Strain Discovered in Cuba

An aggressive, new strain of HIV has been discovered in Cuba.

One which has the ability to develop into AIDS within three years of infection. There is worry that this particular strain’s accelerated progression is so rapid that antiviral treatment may come too late, according to researchers. This study was prompted by the fact that Cuban doctors were reporting an ‘increasing trend’ of AIDS cases that were rapidly progressing.

Without any form of treatment, it usually takes HIV approximately 5 to 10 years to advance to AIDS. This happens more quickly if a patient has an already suppressed immune system. In the case of patients in the study in Cuba, there was a significantly faster advancement. The study found that within three years, patients with the mutated strain developed AIDS. It is often the differences in patients pre-existing immune system differences, not the subtype of HIV, that plays a role in AIDS development. Yet, it was obvious in this study that the specific type of HIV played a major role in the quick advancement.

New Aggressive HIV Strain Discovered in Cuba

When the researchers took a closer look, they found that the patients with quick advancing HIV were linked by their variant type of HIV. This new variant-HIV was discovered to be a new recombinant subtype made up of subtypes A, D, and G. It has been named CRF19. One researcher in the study, Prof. Anne-Mieke Vandamme of Belgium University-Leuven, explained how this variant accelerates the AIDS process:

“There are two types of co-receptors that HIV can use: CCR5 or CXCR4. And, in the normal progression of the HIV to AIDS it often happens that the virus switches co-receptor. It almost always starts with using CCR5 and then it switches to CXCR4 after many years. And once it switches the progression to AIDS goes very fast”.

The inclusion of subtype D may be a key in the CRF19 strain’s aggressiveness, according to researchers. Subtype D has an enzyme that allows HIV to produce in higher numbers and uses proteins that it takes from other subtypes, in new virus particles.

LGBT Youth and Sexual Health

The CDC defines sexual health as “…a state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality.”

Research shows that people who identify as LGBT tend to report lower satisfaction rates in regards to sexual health. In large part this is due to a lack of discussion about LGBT relationships and sexuality. While many people get such information on dating, relationships, and sexuality during their developmental years from parents, teachers, and other community establishments, LGBT youth generally get their information online. This can be a great resource, but it can also be full of misleading or inaccurate information.

It is important for LGBT youth to have access to sexual health resources. A significant factor in establishing sexual health is for both partners to feel safe and satisfied in their relations. Exploring questions pertaining to sexuality and safe practices with adults will help develop self-confidence and eliminate some fears.

LGBT Youth and Sexual Health

Unfortunately, research continues to show that Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual youth are at an increased risk for being victims of violence, bullying, and suicidal thoughts. It is understandable then that youth who live under constant fear and harassment also encounter greater difficulty in maintaining sexual health within their personal relationships.

In addition to discussing such issues individually, communities can support youth by facilitating open discussions and youth organizations. Creating a safe place for youth to explore questions, raise concerns, and meet with people who share similar thoughts and feelings can go a long way in supporting LGBT sexual health well into adulthood.

Needless to say, having open and honest conversations about sexuality within the LGBT community is instrumental to achieving sexual health. The first step in achieving sexual health is to discuss concerns with a healthcare practitioner. Research also shows that people LGBT youth and adults visit healthcare practitioners less frequently – reach out to a professional today and make an appointment.

Lesbian and Bisexual Women’s Health

There is so much health information available online geared toward lesbian health. How does lesbian or bisexual health differ from that of heterosexual women? It doesn’t. Women who identify as lesbian and bisexual are prone to the same sexually transmitted infections, urinary tract infections, and yeast infections as women who identify as heterosexual. That said, it is important to note that lesbian and bisexual women do face significantly different issues within health care, such as discrimination and uninformed medical practitioners.

As sexual orientation doesn’t affect a woman’s health, it is reasonable to then look into risk factors and common illnesses for women in general. The number one cause of death for women is heart disease. There are several risk factors that contribute to the likelihood of developing heart disease. While age, race, and genetics are not within your control, obesity and smoking are. Such lifestyle choices make a significant difference when it comes to long-term health, particularly in the prevention and treatment of heart disease.

Lesbian and Bisexual Women’s Health

The second most common cause of death amongst women is cancer of the breast, lung, colon, uterus, and ovaries. This is one case that research shows a significant increase in rates for lesbian or bisexual women. While research is still being conducted, it is believed that breast and ovarian cancers are related to hormone levels. It is thought that full-term pregnancies and breastfeeding release hormones that may protect women against such cancers. As lesbian and bisexual women are less likely to have a full-term pregnancy, they may be at greater risk of developing such cancers.

Of course, the greatest risk for all women is to delay check-ups and exams. It is most important to find a physician that you are comfortable meeting with regularly and speaking with openly. Women should go in for full examinations at least once a year – reach out to a medical provider and make an appointment today!

Health Concerns Faced by Bisexuals

Bisexuality is often misunderstood or not taken seriously.  Discrimination exists within the LGBT community and from heterosexuals.  A bisexual person might be viewed as someone who can’t make up their mind about their true sexuality or as someone who is promiscuous, having little or no sexual boundaries.  More than half of the 3.5 percent of adults in the U.S. who identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual are, in fact, bisexual. They face unique health concerns that deserve our attention.

Health Concerns Faced by Bisexuals

Some health concerns faced by bisexuals:
  • Substance abuse – According to research, bisexual women have higher rates of drug use than heterosexual women and close to or possibly higher rates than lesbians. The differences between bisexual and gay men have not been clear in studies.
  • Alcohol use – Bisexual women have reported higher rates of alcohol use, abuse and alcohol related problems compared to lesbians and heterosexual women.
  • Sexual health – Bisexual women have reported riskier behavior with sex, compared to heterosexual and lesbian women. Part of this risk comes from the highest rate reported of combining substance/alcohol use and sexual activity.  Bisexual men who have sex with men have an increased risk of HIV infection.
  • Tobacco use – Bisexual women smoke at higher rates than heterosexual women, but about the same as lesbians. Less is known about bisexual men’s smoking habits.
  • Cancer – Bisexual women have reported higher rates of cancer. Some risk factors are: not having given birth (also relevant to a higher rate of lesbians), or being more likely to give birth after age 30, and alcohol consumption.  Also, bisexual women receive mammograms and pap tests at the lowest rates. Men or women who receive anal sex are at a higher risk for anal cancer because of an increased rate of HPV infection.
  • Nutrition/fitness/weight – Bisexual and lesbian women have higher rates of obesity than heterosexual women and more bisexual women are underweight than heterosexual women or lesbians, which would indicate they might be more likely to struggle with healthy eating. Attempts to achieve perfect bodies, due to pressure, have left some gay and bisexual men with adverse health consequences.  They might compulsively exercise, use steroids or develop eating disorders due to a poor body image.
  • Heart disease – Higher rates of heart disease have been reported by bisexual women compared to heterosexual women.
  • Depression/anxiety – Bisexual men and women have reported higher levels of anxiety and depression than heterosexuals and sometimes higher than gay men and lesbians. The issues are likely to be more severe for those who lack social support and those who are unable or unwilling to disclose their sexuality.
  • Social support/emotional well-being – Bisexual women have reported the lowest levels of social support. Bisexual men and women have the lowest emotional well-being of any sexual orientation group.
  • Self-harm/suicide attempts – Bisexual women and men have reported higher levels of suicide attempts, self-harm and suicidal thoughts than heterosexuals and higher than gay men and lesbians in some studies.

Cuomo Approves Transgender Care Under Medicaid

On December 16th, Governor Cuomo approved a policy that will allow transgender persons in New York medically necessary health care through Medicaid.  There are several hundred men and women on Medicaid who have been diagnosed with Gender Identity Disorder.  This disorder, more recently referred to as Gender Dysphoria, is suffered by those who feel strongly that they are not the gender they physically appear to be.  Cuomo’s decision has resulted in mixed approval from individuals and organizations, including the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund (TLDEF):

“We applaud the Cuomo Administration for taking this important step,” said TLDEF Executive Director Michael Silverman in a statement. “But we call upon it to remove all restrictions for medically necessary transgender health care. Transgender New Yorkers suffer because their health care needs are excluded from New York’s Medicaid program. This exclusion is rooted in bias, and serves only to harm some of the most vulnerable people in New York.”

Cuomo Approves Transgender Care Under Medicaid

Not all procedures that transgender patients might require will be covered by Medicaid, and it is still unclear as to what will be consistently covered.  Transgender patients must be diagnosed with Gender Dysphoria in order to receive the coverage .  The American Psychiatric Association and the American Medical Association believe that medical care aligning a transgender person’s body with their gender identity is “medically necessary”.  Some medical institutions and plans might cover hormone and talk therapies, visits to the doctor and genital reconstruction for transgender women, but not facial reconstruction, breast augmentation or facial hair removal.

Sex-change operations, which include breast augmentation, mastectomy and testical removal generally cost anywhere between $15,000 to $50,000.  Not included are the thousands of dollars often needed for counseling.  Medicaid will be providing coverage for transgender New Yorkers over the age of 18, and over 21, if requiring surgery that results in sterilization.

After a 45 day comment period, Medicaid’s new policy will go into effect.  New York state will be joining Maryland, Massachusetts, Oregon, Vermont and Washington DC in providing medical services to transgender residents.

FDA Considering Revision of Ban on Gay Blood Donations

Following the outbreak of the HIV/Aids epidemic the Food and Drug Administration, the Federal Agency who oversees the nation’s blood banks instituted a ban on blood donations from “Men who have sex with men,” or (MSM). For the first time since the ban’s institution, the FDA are set upon recommendation from the federal department of Health and Human Services to consider a revision to the ban.

As presently constituted, the ban places a “lifelong deferral,” on donations of blood from any men who have taken part in sexual activity with other men, as well as a one year deferral on women who have had relations with MSM. In explanation of the ban, as the FDA explains, “MSM are, as a group, at increased risk for HIV, hepatitis B and certain other infections that can be transmitted by transfusion.”

FDA Considering Revision of Ban on Gay Blood Donations

The revised plan would call for a one year deferral in which the man wishing to donate must remain abstinent prior to donating.
The plan has drawn fire from LGBT health groups, pointing out that no such ban exists for any other group, including women who have sex with other women.

“While the proposed change from a lifetime ban to a 12-month deferral is a step forward, it does not go far enough,” explains Gay Men’s Health Crisis, a nonprofit organization scheduled to send a representative to speak in front of the FDA’s Blood-Products Advisory Committee, who will be taking up the possible revision.

“Do you require heterosexuals to be abstinent for one year, regardless of assessing their risk for HIV? This step forward still bans gay and bisexual men who routinely engage in low-risk behavior — men who would otherwise be eligible to donate if they happened to be heterosexual,” explained the group in an official statement, “For example, two legally married, HIV-negative, gay men who participate in low-risk behavior are still banned for life under this proposed policy, while a similar straight couple could still be eligible to donate.”

The FDA is expected to issue a statement on the matter before the end of 2014.