Within the youth LGBT community, one of the biggest health disparities is the higher risk of Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) than that of someone who isn’t a part of the LGBT. It has, for a long time, been a stigma that gay males, in specific, are more at risk for HIV/AIDS due to patient zero for HIV in America being a gay male. STDs are transmitted due to having unsafe sexual intercourse and is spread from the unhealthy partner to the healthy partner A higher risk of contracting an STD is a problem because it puts the individual at a physical health risk as well and an emotional and mental health risk and could even have an economic toll on the group. This problem has been around for a relatively long time, and has become a bigger issue since the nineteen-eighties. Though, a lot of focus of this health disparity circulates around HIV/AIDS other STDs are part of the concern as well for the LGBT youth.
Across the United States, ages 13-24 attributed to 21% of the total diagnoses of HIV. Of that twenty-one percent, 81% of them had participated in male to male sexual contact, the other 19% accounts for the opposite sex sexual contact. This is even more severe when surveys point to only 11.2% of students identifying as LGBT or unsure. Some social factors that contribute to the STD problem in LGBT youth include the lack of sex education. For example, many sex education lessons given in school or even by guardians exclude same-sex aspects as well as sexuality. This could lead to misconceptions about homosexual intercourse that could lead to unhealthy behaviors, such as not having to use a condom during sex. The CDC reports that only 47.5% of LGBT identifying youth used condoms during sexual intercourse. This could be accounted for the myth that the only thing a condom does is prevent pregnancy, therefore would not be necessary for same sex intercourse. An environmental factor of this health disparity is familial support; the less support a child/adolescent has from their family increases the risk of contracting an STD. Some other environmental factors include bullying/rejection from classmates or peers. Risk factors for LGBT adolescents also have to do with their economic well-being. 20-40% of homeless youth identify as LGBT, which in turn limits the availability of condoms or sexual education. Economic instability can also increase an LGBT individual’s chances of selling their body for quick cash. The individual also plays a big part in their own risk of contracting an STD. For example, many LGBT adolescents have depression, low self-esteem or other mental health illnesses, which has a direct correlation to STD exposure, according to the National Center for Lesbian Rights.
These previous facts and numbers may seem daunting there are many solutions that are relatively simple that could help eliminate this disparity of STDs in the underrepresented LGBT child/adolescent group. The first solution is inclusion of LGBT aspects into sex education programs in schools as well as other sources (parents/guardians, online sources, etc.). Improving on same-sex information in sex education programs would help the LGBT youth learn safe sex practices, warn them of certain risks and debunk some myths that circulate around same-sex intercourse. More inclusive sex education could lead to a reduction of STD transmission in addition to helping with an individual’s mental health by supplying topics on coming out and teaching acceptance. This leads into the next solution of teaching acceptance and reducing harassment. In the past 10-20 years, acceptance for the LGBT has increased considerably, but there are still children and adolescents getting harassed, rejected and bullied for their sexual orientation, which as stated before, is a risk factor for contracting an STD. The best way to reduce this is to teach acceptance and put anti-bullying measures in schools or any environment necessary.
Television shows, movies and other media have been improving the way people view the LGBT community in positive way by representing more LGBT characters. This allows people to view a different sexual orientation as more commonplace and less threatening and as a result makes the population more accepting and will also teach LGBT youth to accept themselves. Schools should all have an anti-bullying policy or an LGBT inclusive program that is strict against harassment due to someone’s sexual orientation. These policies will improve the overall mental health of the LGBT youth ,thus lowering their risk for STD exposure. Finally, one of the most important things is to raise awareness for these issues. Not just for the risk of STDs/HIV in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender adolescents but for all health risks that this minority faces. In fact, 60% of youth that have the HIV virus are not even aware that they carry it. Most people are unaware of the extreme imbalance of risk to STDs, as well as many other health disparities, that the LGBT face throughout their childhood into their adulthood that the heterosexual youth do not have to worry about. If more awareness is brought to this fact, it could lead to programs to close the gap of this disparity and reveal to the LGBT that they are more at risk for health disparities including STDs/HIV.
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