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Today is Wednesday, November 28, 2007


Bias Health Issue for Gays: Australian Doctor Group

[SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA] - The Australian Medical Association (AMA) issued a position statement on Thursday at the Amnesty International Global Human Rights Conference, saying that prejudice can affect the health of gays and lesbians.

"There is still unacceptable injustice, prejudice, inequalities under the law, and serious health consequences as a result of homophobia," Federal AMA president Dr. Kerryn Phelps said at the conference.

Phelps pointed out that because homosexuals experience discrimination, they are less likely than heterosexuals to seek healthcare. For example, she noted that lesbians are less likely to undergo cervical and breast cancer screening than their heterosexual counterparts, and are less likely to be tested for sexually transmissible diseases.

Some lesbians may use sperm donors who have not been screened for disease because they may be denied access to in vitro fertilization programs, Phelps added.

Doctors also need to be aware of specific health issues affecting transsexuals, she said.

"Male-to-female transsexuals who do not have their prostate removed after sex reassignment surgery are still at risk of prostate cancer," she noted. "Female-to-male transsexuals can still be at risk of breast cancer in spite of breast reduction surgery, as well as risk of ovarian cancer if ovaries are not removed."

The major issues center around a reluctance to disclose sexual behaviors or sexual relationships, Phelps told Reuters Health.

"Gay men and lesbians are less likely to undertake health screening of a variety of different sorts, particularly leading to a higher incidence of cancer and heart disease," she said. "There is also a higher incidence of mental health problems such as anxiety and depression, which is not caused by homosexuality but caused by homophobia."

Phelps stated at the conference that "mental health problems are statistically over-represented in the gay and lesbian population throughout life because of exposure to discriminatory behavior." She suggested that gay and lesbian youth are often denied "rites of passage" experienced by heterosexual youth, including moments such as going to the prom and having their first kiss.

She cited a 1996 Australian study that showed that over half of gay male youths had attempted suicide. "Because of homophobia, people are suffering. Young people are dying. There can be no excuses for delays in achieving justice and human rights for all people. Lives depend on it," said Phelps.

"There was very wide consultation in reaching this position statement," Phelps told Reuters Health. "I believe that it's a very important document, and it's one which the AMA will be disseminating widely to community groups and medical colleges and universities."

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