Healthcare professionals

GHS works with professional bodies and health services to help ensure the best possible levels of engagement between LGB people and their healthcare professionals to help ensure the best possible health outcomes.

Over the last 20 years there has been significant progress for lesbian, gay and bisexual people in Ireland. This progress has included gay law reform, the Equality legislation and most recently major progress towards equality in relationship recognition for lesbian and gay couples, with the passing of the Civil Partnership Act. More than ever before lesbian, gay, bisexual (LGB) people are able to live their lives more openly and without the same degrees of fear, stigma or prejudice than before.
Despite this progress, Irish and international research highlights that LGB people continue to face significant barriers and challenges in accessing and receiving appropriate healthcare, and that health services are often not inclusive of LGBT patients.

Some of these barriers are based on previous negative experiences and some on perceptions formed by LGB people and MSM of potential barriers and prejudices that may exist in a service. Even if a barrier is based on a perception that may not be true in practice, if that perception results in certain people deciding not to access, or engage fully with, available sexual health services then the perception has a real impact on health outcomes and needs to be addressed on that basis. Some of these barriers include:

• Only 44% of LGBT patients are open about their sexual orientation to their healthcare professionals
• 60% of LGBT people would not disclose their sexual orientation to their healthcare professional for fear of a negative reaction
• 20% of LGBT people reported having had a negative experience
• Only 40% felt respected as an LGBT person by healthcare providers
• 45% actively sought out LGBT-friendly healthcare professionals because of bad experiences that they had with providers in the past.
• Fears about confidentiality of services
• The stigma attached to HIV
• People from different cultural backgrounds

The impact of these barriers can include people choosing not to access sexual health services or not being totally forthcoming with a full sexual practices history if they do attend. This can leave the clinician in a situation where they are disadvantaged due to not having the full information on which to make a diagnosis.

To help address these issues GLEN has developed good practice guidelines to support healthcare professionals, including GPs and GUM clinicians, to ensure that their sexual health services are fully inclusive of LGB people.