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Challenges accessing healthcare seen for some in the LGBTQ+ community

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June is Pride Month, a time to honor the diversity and resilience of the LGBTQ+ community while also spotlighting the significant health challenges they face.

According to a 2023 Gallup survey, the number of adults in the United States who identify as LGBTQ+ has nearly doubled in the last decade. However, despite this increase, LGBTQ+ individuals, who make up only seven percent of the population, continue to experience health challenges disproportionately.

While some health experiences may align with non-LGBTQ+ individuals, the LGBTQ+ community faces unique and serious health disparities, particularly concerning mental health.

"People within this community are more likely to experience anxiety, depression, and even eating disorders as ways to cope with stress," explains Saba Khan, DO, a Family Medicine Resident Physician at Aspirus Wausau Family Medicine. The pressures of societal stigma and discrimination often lead to these mental health challenges, creating a cycle of neglect and worsening health.

In addition to mental health, physical health disparities also pose significant challenges.

"People tend to shy away from seeking health care because they feel there's a certain stigma based on their lifestyle," notes Dr. Khan. This reluctance can result in delayed diagnoses and untreated conditions. Overcoming this barrier requires healthcare providers to cultivate trust and ensure a welcoming atmosphere. "Addressing patients by their appropriate pronouns and asking them directly about their gender or sexual orientation can help gain the patient’s trust."

For LGBTQ+ individuals, Dr. Khan advises, "Find a primary care provider you trust and feel comfortable with, and continue getting the preventive care you need."

Regular check-ups and preventive care can detect potential health issues early and ensure timely treatment.

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