Thursday, February 16th, the White house held an LGBT conference in Philadelphia that was focused on health care issues facing our community.
Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, headlined the conference.
In her address, Secretary Sebelius stated that the health care system was “especially broken for LGBT Americans”. Further stating: “All Americans, regardless of where they live, what age, sex, race, sexual orientation, or gender identity, have a basic right to get the health care they need here in the United States, and that’s a principle we are committed to fighting for in this administration.” Yes, we have the right, but does the administration have the capacity to provide for our rights?
Is it any wonder that the health care system is, as she stated, “especially broken for LGBT Americans”? The health care needs of gay men are rarely understood by physicians, nurses, aides, and often by the community itself.
In my opinion one of the most striking comment she has made (what I call a DUH moment – the sound made when a very smart stupid person has an awakening) was her statement regarding domestic HIV/AIDS prevention efforts: “frankly, what we’ve been doing is not very good.”
This admission is long overdue and obviously insufficient, what difference do words make when they are not backed by action?
What is being done to improve health care for gay men? Not much, and I don’t expect to see great changes any time soon. (Oh, wait, there is the great resource of cultural competency training and focus groups, let’s not forget them!)
The health care problem starts with research, which dictates much of program and care.
To quote Sebelius from a January interview: “The most frustrating thing is that there’s now very good data about how prevention can work, about how to reduce partner-to-partner transmission, early identification and treatment… And yet we have 50,000 new infections popping up. It just doesn’t make any sense.” It is amazing to me that with the amount of money, time and other resources spent on research that we ‘know so little’ of what is obvious to most gay men.
Government funded prevention efforts are almost always required to be condom focused and condom focused campaigns are not effective for gay men. Most gay men I know use some form of risk reduction strategy, strategies that may or may not include the use of a condom.
The core problem with the health care being provided to gay men, and not just sexual healthcare, is nothing more than simple politics and fear of honest talk about sex and sexual behaviors.
The government (as a reflection of America) just cannot deal with sex, especially ‘gay sex’. Nor can we as a nation of sexually repressed adults be honest enough about sexual behavior, same sex relationships, and the social determinants of health to have any effect on infection rates, the health of homosexuals and the many other health care concerns in our community – concerns that we face at significantly higher rates than heterosexual men.
It seems we have become content, allowing our health to slowly fail, our elders to live in fear and loneliness as our government slowly plots our demise through ignorance, fear of sex, and exclusionary practices.
So what now?