HEALTHCARE CHALLENGES FOR MEN IN THE LGBTQ COMMUNITY GO BEYOND HIV/AIDS
Victoria A. Brownworth, Philadelphia Gay News courtesy of the National LGBTQ Media Association
Read the full article online at thegavoice.com.
The AIDS crisis in the U.S. redefined healthcare for gay, bisexual and men who have sex with men as trauma-based emergency care. Prior to the current range of PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) drugs, an HIV diagnosis, with full-blown AIDS the next phase, was often a death sentence. But in this era of PrEP, are gay, bi, and trans men, and men who have sex with men (MSM), getting appropriate healthcare for their non-HIV needs?
The recent monkeypox outbreak suggests that healthcare for GBT men and MSM is still limited to crisis management and that stigmas attach to this group of men that do not attach to cis-het men. Everyone failed men with monkeypox — including the federal government, which was revealed to have no control over its own vaccine stockpile, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which was slow to respond to the needs of the GBT community during the height of the outbreak last year.
GBT men and MSM are at constant risk of a plethora of avoidable and controllable health issues, including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.
Studies are disturbingly clear: despite a myriad of advances in medical science and available treatment protocols, men live sicker lives and die younger than women, on average by over five years. More babies assigned male at birth are born every year, yet by as early as age 35, women outnumber men demographically. This gap only widens with age: 57 percent of all those ages 65 and older are female; 65 percent of people over age 80 are women.
Women are twice as likely to get preventative health care. Basic preventative health care is blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar checks, sigmoidoscopy and colonoscopy, flu shots, and annual or semi-annual dental checkup. Men are more likely to have high blood pressure and diabetes, both of which can lead to serious health concerns and in some cases death.
Men not getting necessary preventive care leads to missed opportunities for early detection and treatment for a range of conditions, including the top two causes of death for men: cardiovascular disease and cancer.
Social and cultural differences also play a part. Men are more likely to have high-risk jobs, die of heart disease more often and at a younger age (men are 50 percent more likely than women to die of heart disease), commit suicide more often than women, and be less socially connected; all are contributing factors to illness and death that are largely avoidable. Since men tend to avoid medical care far more often than women, getting men to report symptoms (including depression) and go for regular follow-up for chronic medical problems (high blood pressure) could increase quality of life and life expectancy.
The CDC leads with STIs as their main concern for “gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men.” CDC says, “For all men, heart disease and cancer are the leading causes of death. However, compared to other men, gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men are additionally affected by: Higher rates of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs); tobacco and drug use; depression.”
The CDC states risk factors that can negatively impact men’s health, including “Homophobia; stigma (negative and usually unfair beliefs); discrimination (unfairly treating a person or group of people differently); lack of access to culturally- and orientation-appropriate medical and support services; heightened concerns about confidentiality; fear of losing your job; fear of talking about your sexual practices or orientation.”