Survey gives Officials better picture of Idaho’s LGBT Population

lgbthealthneeds2009

The next time a survey taker calls your home you might want to answer the phone. That’s because health officials are relying on what’s called the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey to get a better grasp on of the health of a state’s population.  Here in Idaho, that includes those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.

According to JamieLou Delavan, who heads up Idaho’s Bureau of Community & Environmental Health, Idaho’s survey began to include questions on gender identity and sexual orientation in 2011.

According to the CDC, “the survey is the world’s largest, on-going telephone health survey system, tracking health conditions and risk behaviors in the United States yearly since 1984. Currently, data is collected monthly in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Guam.”

Delvan says the inclusion of questions concerning Idaho’s LGBT population is a pretty important milestone,”Every state conducts this survey but not every state asks gender identity in an expanded way or asks sexual orientation.  Some states are kind of surprised that we now include this in Idaho.”

Conducted throughout the year, states use the data to identify emerging health problems, establish and track health objectives, and develop and evaluate public health policies and programs. Many states also use the data to support health-related legislative efforts.

Getting anyone to participate in a phone survey can be challenging, especially in today’s environment of endless robocalls and telemarketing campaigns, but in rural conservative states like Idaho asking LGBT individuals to identify themselves as such can prove to be even tougher.

But the good news is those who participate in the survey do so confidentially and anonymously. Devlin says the information regarding one’s sexuality or gender identity is only used to give health officials a better idea of what’s happening health wise within a state’s population or community.

Data collected from those who identified as LGBT during last year’s survey helped to confirm several aspects of the community’s overall health picture.

Officials are hoping for even more participation this year.

Delvan says more participation in the survey by those who identify themselves as LGBT can mean more funding, more programs and better health care for Idaho’s LGBT population.

Click HERE to see Idaho stats from last year’s survey.

Click HERE to learn more about the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey program.

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Cancer Network Targets Needs of LGBT Community in Idaho and Beyond

A nationwide program founded in 2007 by members of the LGBT community to help address specific health needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) cancer survivors and those at risk has added some 300 facilities to its ever-growing network.

Three of those facilities are located right here in Idaho.

According to a recent press release, The National LGBT Cancer Network’s expanded directory now includes,”a starred designation for facilities that have shown an exceptional commitment to transgender health.”

“Many other cancer screening facilities are, if not outright hostile, unaware of how to treat transgender patients. This means, for instance, that a transgender man seeking a mammogram may be asked to don a pink robe or sit in the women’s waiting room – a humiliating experience. At both the starred facilities and any of the other facilities in the directory, transgender patients can join lesbians, gays, and bisexuals in resting assured that they will not be discriminated against,” says the Network.

Cancer is the leading cause of death in Idaho and is also the number one cause of death among the 45-54, 55-64, and 65-74 year old age groups.

While specific data regarding the LGBT community and cancer is hard to come by, the network reports that,”there is reason to believe that LGBT people are carrying a disproportionate cancer burden.”

According to Liz Margolies, the group’s Executive Director,”LGBT people are at increased risk of cancer, not due to any physiological differences, but behaviors, many of which result from the stress of living as sexual and gender minorities in this country. As a group, for example, lesbians drink more, smoke more, are less likely to have a biological child before age 30, and more likely to be overweight and eat a high-fat diet. All these increase their cancer risks considerably.”

“Gay men have very high rates of HPV, the virus that can lead to anal cancer. In fact, anal cancer rates in this population are 40 times higher than in the general population. A simple screening procedure, an anal pap smear, can test for precancerous changes, but too few men are aware of the need for or existence of the test, or out to their provider who could then recommend it. Long-term HIV survivors are now also known to be at much greater risk for several types of cancer, including lung and renal cancer as well as anal cancer,” Margolies says.

Besides the national registry of clinics and facilities, the organization’s website also offers a web-based risk assessment test, educational resources about cancer and the LGBT community as well as a cultural competence training course for facilities seeking to join the network.

Click HERE to see the list of screening facilities in Idaho.

Click HERE to learn more about The National LGBT Cancer Network.

 

 

HIV is NOT a crime: AIDS Activist Sean Strub bringing his Message of Injustice to Boise

When a person gets arrested for not disclosing his or her HIV status, it’s big news. Local media outlets love to present sensationalized, one-sided pieces meant to send fear and panic throughout a community.  By doing so they play right into many of the stereotypes and stigma that has surrounded the virus for decades.

It’s a subject that activist Sean Strub takes personally. Strub was diagnosed with HIV over thirty years ago and since than has been working to change hearts, minds and laws when it comes to HIV and AIDS in America.

From producing a hit Broadway play, to running for office to founding several magazines including POZ, no medium seems to big of a canvas for the activist to use in order to get his message out.

Strub will be bringing his latest project, a documentary short titled HIV is not a crime to Idaho.

According to Creative Visions Foundation, “Most HIV criminalization prosecutions are for not disclosing one’s HIV+ status, or for not being able to prove disclosure, prior to engaging in an intimate sexual act.  Actual HIV transmission is rarely a factor in these prosecutions and even the degree of potential risk is not typically relevant.”

The film tells the stories of three individuals who have found themselves caught in the criminalization trap.

People like Nick Rhoads of Iowa.

According to criminalHIVtransmission.blogspot.com, a blog that tracks such stories,”Rhodes was arrested, prosecuted and sentenced to 25 years in prison because he didn’t disclose he was HIV-positive during a one-night stand with another man, despite using condoms and having an undetectable viral load.  Following intervention from human rights groups and HIV advocates, Nick’s 25 year sentence was eventually suspended, but he remains on parole and on the sex offenders list.”

During his presentation the film, Strub hopes to raise such questions as,”How does the criminalization of HIV affect its prevention? Are the laws preventing or facilitating the spread of HIV?”

According to a press release, the event will be held Thursday, May 3rd from 4:00-6:00 p.m. at The Law Center, located at 525 W Jefferson in Boise.

The event is free and open to the public.

RSVP to jamie.Strain@fmridaho.org or call 208-514-2505 Ext. 6079.

LGBT Health Awareness Week Highlights Holes in Idaho’s Healthcare System

While organizations, clinics and healthcare systems across the country are hosting events and programs targeting the LGBT community this week, here in Idaho, National LGBT Health Awareness Week serves as a solemn reminder that there are still large areas of the country where the health care needs of a gay or transgender person are often ignored, forgotten, or under-served at best.

The cost of healthcare aside, the task of finding a physician that not only welcomes but understands the needs of a gay or transgender patient can seem overwhelming, especially in rural areas where a town may only have one doctor or where the nearest clinic maybe miles a way.

Sadly, even in heavily populated areas like Boise, many physicians and nurse practitioners aren’t trained to deal with the specific needs of their LGBT clients.

A few years ago a friend went to an emergency room at a Boise hospital after breaking out in some sort of itchy bumps covering most of his body, including his pubic region.

The friend told the doctor he was gay. He also explained that the bumps seemed to appear after he had spent an evening sitting in a friends hot tub.

The doctor took a quick look at the bumps and in less than two minutes later wrote up a prescription for Valtrex, the herpes medication.

My friend was horrified.

“We are seeing a lot of it, especially in young gay men,” the doctor told him.

Lucky, a few days later my friend scheduled an appointment with a dermatologist in order to get a second opinion. The second doctor quickly dismissed the herpes diagnosis and, after a quick test, found that the bumps were indeed caused by a bad case of “hot tub folliculitis.”

The doctor told him to throw away the expensive Valtrex medication and instead prescribed him an oral antibiotic, which cleared up the condition in less than a week.

“I will never tell another doctor about my sexual orientation again, ” my friend said later, “I suspect that had I not have told him that I was gay, he would have performed a proper examination rather than making a false diagnosis.”

A year or so ago, another friend started to ask his physician about some pain he was feeling during anal sex with his partner. The doctor, who he had been seeing for more than three years or so for routine exams, cut him off with an astonishing,” I don’t want to hear about your sex life.”

While there have been no real studies to speak of regarding the LGBT community’s access to healthcare in Idaho, it’s probably safe to say that the above anecdotes aren’t isolated cases.

More than one transgender person living in Idaho has reported having to educate their own physician about their own health needs, that is if the physician is willing to see them at all.

A quick search of the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association website finds only two providers listed in Idaho. Dr. Marvin Alviso serves as a family practitioner specializing in HIV and AIDS in Boise and Dr. Cynthia Bunde specializes in women’s health at the Women’s Health Clinic in Pocatello.

While certainly not a comprehensive directory for physicians who accept and or meet the needs of LGBT patients in Idaho, the GLMA website does paint a somewhat bleak picture for Idahoans who turn to the internet in order to find a physician.

All is not lost though, even here in Idaho there are a number of great physicians who do except and treat LGBT clients.

So how does one go about finding a good doctor?

One neighboring state’s Public Health Department suggests the following:

Ask others. Friends and colleagues are a great resource when you are looking for a health care provider. Ask people you know who their provider is and what he or she is like. Ask friends what they like and value about their providers. It can be especially helpful to ask other GLBT people for referrals.

Interview potential health care providers. Once you have a list of potential providers (make sure that your insurance is accepted, if you have it), you may choose to set up visits with several of them in their offices. Let them know you are looking for a health care provider, and would like to briefly meet and talk with them. Ask if this interview can be free, and ask how much time you will have with the provider.

The website also suggests that LGBT clients ask the following questions:

What is your experience working with gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender patients?

What training have your staff have on LGBT issues?

Who takes backup calls when you are on vacation? Are they experienced with LGBT patients?

Do you maintain a list of LGBT friendly providers to whom you refer ? (A terrific primary provider still might refer you to a homophobic cardiologist or endocrinologist.)

How will you maintain patient confidentiality? (This may be especially important if you are a minor and you aren’t “out” to your parent/guardian.)

Are you willing to work with my other providers? (This is important if you decide to work with alternative health care providers such as naturopaths or acupuncturists.)

What do you think your patients appreciate most about you?

Providers themselves can help make a huge difference in the health of Idaho’s LGBT community by listing with sites like the GLMA, advertising with LGBT friendly websites and publications and by partnering with groups that focus on serving the health needs of the community.

Having a booth at pride events, partnering with HIV testing and prevention groups like Allies Linked for the Prevention of HIV and AIDS, or by getting involved in local community centers or LGBT programs are all great ways to get the word out that you are willing to serve LGBT patients.

Mental healthcare is another important area in which many LGBT individuals struggle to find the right provider. Due to lack of training, understanding, religious intolerance or blatant homophobia more than one LGBT client has been permanently emotionally and mentally scarred by the diagnosis and therapy of their so-called mental health “expert.”

Luckily, there seems to be a larger portion of mental health providers in Idaho willing to let potential LGBT clients know that they are available to meet their needs.

The Psychology Today website has a comprehensive county-by-county listing of therapists, psychologists, group therapy programs and other resources. It also contains listings for many of Idaho’s rural areas.

While important, a LGBT individual’s health goes far beyond simply getting tested for HIV every three months to six months. There are many specific needs, questions and concerns not faced by our straight counterparts.

If you don’t already have one, why not set aside some time this week to ask around and find a personal physician? While you are at it, this might also be a good week to get an HIV test, hit the gym, seek out a spiritual family or focus on that diet change as well. It’s also a good week to preview the Affordable Healthcare Act and learn how it will affect you. Remember, there is only one you and you owe it to yourself to make sure you’re in good health!

Click HERE for more LGBT Health Awareness Week resources.

Lawmakers advance “Don’t Teach Sex Ed” Bill in Utah

A bill that would allow school districts to “opt out” of teaching sex education classes has been sent to the house floor. Originally the bill also included language that prohibited any discussion of  homosexuality, contraception or sex outside of marriage as well,  but it was amended during a committee hearing on Thursday.

According to the Salt Lake Tribune,”The committee, in the last few minutes of its meeting, voted 8-7 to amend the bill to remove the ban on discussing contraception, homosexuality and sex outside marriage. Instead, the revised bill prohibits only the advocacy of those activities, along with instruction in the “use” of contraceptives.”

Current law in Utah requires sex education classes for high school students, with a parental “opt-out” option. Current policy also the courses take an “abstinence only” stance.

According to the Tribune,” whether the amendment would mean teachers would still be allowed to discuss contraception under the bill was somewhat unclear Thursday night.”

While the number of teen pregnancies and STIs are lower then the rest of the nation, a new study released by the Centers for Disease Control reviled some staggering information when it comes to teen pregnancy in the Bee Hive state.

According to KUTV, “About 49% of Utah’s teen mothers between 15 and 19 years old say the reason for not using contraception when an unintended pregnancy occurred was because they did not think they could get pregnant. Whereas, only 35% of the teen moms interviewed nationwide thought the same thing.”

In Utah, 2,551 residents are infected with HIV.

Utah has no state funding for family planning services for low-income women

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