WASHINGTON -- The comment period ended today for the department of Health and Human Services Healthy People 2010 report which HHS describes as its "prevention agenda for the nation that is designed as a tool that identifies the most significant preventable threats to health and focuses public and private sector efforts to address those threats."
In comments submitted by HRC, the organization charges that the Healthy People 2010 report treats gay and lesbian Americans as if they are invisible and does not adequately address their health needs including HIV/AIDS prevention, lesbian health, teen suicide, and anti-gay violence.
"Healthy People 2010 fails to address homophobia in the health care and medical research communities that has both limited access to care and blocked the development of solutions to health care problems for gay and lesbian Americans. HRC believes the fact that this document is silent on major health care issues of concern to our community is indicative of the inherent bias in our nation's health care delivery system toward gay, lesbian and bisexual Americans," said HRC Political Director Winnie Stachelberg.
The overview of the HIV/AIDS epidemic does not include a thorough analysis of the epidemic in the gay community. Glaringly absent is a discussion of the particular HIV prevention needs of gay youth and gay men of color.
"The HIV/AIDS section of Healthy People 2010 should include a subsection on successful HIV prevention efforts, including scientific evidence of the success of needle exchange and school based condom distribution programs," said Senior Health Policy Advocate Seth Kilbourn. "While these interventions are controversial, what we know about them should be presented in the document. Such a presentation will make it possible for decision makers at all levels of government and society to make informed choices about which interventions should be implemented in particular communities."
Lesbians are not mentioned at all in Healthy People 2010, and certainly not as a population at greater risk for diseases such as breast and cervical cancer. Some of this risk may be due to homophobia in the health care system.
"Many lesbians avoid seeking health care because of past negative experiences with homophobic practitioners. These experiences have been well-documented within the medical literature and may include patronizing treatment, intimidation, attempts to change the patient's sexual orientation, hostility toward the patient or her partner(s), breach of confidentiality; invasive and inappropriate personal questioning, neglect, denial of care, undue roughness in the physical exam and sexual assault," according to Elizabeth J. Rankow in the Fall 1995 edition of Women's Health Issues.
The Healthy People 2010 section dealing with Injury/Violence Prevention must address the issue of hate crimes against gay and lesbian Americans. While serious violent crime overall in the United States is declining, there is a disturbing trend in violence against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people. The Federal Bureau of Investigation found an 8 percent increase in reported hate crimes against gays and lesbians in 1997. This represents the third-highest category for hate crimes reported in the United States, or about 14 percent of all hate crimes reported in 1997.
In addition, studies have shown (Vermont Youth Risk Behavior Survey and Massachusetts Youth Risk Behavior Survey, funded by the CDC) that students who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or have had same-sex sexual experiences are significantly more likely than their peers to face threats or be injured with a weapon at school. They are also more likely to attempt suicide, smoke cigarettes, and abuse drugs and alcohol. "The psychological problems of gay and lesbian adolescents are primarily the result of societal stigma, hostility, hatred and isolation. The gravity of these stresses is underscored by current data that document gay youths account for up to 30 percent of all completed adolescent suicides," according to the American Academy of Pediatrics' policy.
The Human Rights Campaign is the nation's largest national lesbian and gay political organization with members throughout the country. HRC effectively lobbies Congress, provides campaign support, and educates the public to ensure that lesbian and gay Americans can be open, honest, and safe at home, at work, and in the community.