Last week Asia Catalyst signed a petition to the World Health Organization to bring lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) issues to the forefront of the next WHO Executive Board Meeting, happening May of 2014. You can read the letter for yourself below. Or, to see the original, click here.
World Health Organization
Avenue Appia 20
1211 Geneva 27
February 28, 2014
Dear Madam Director General:
We, the undersigned civil society organizations from all regions of the world, respectfully write to you today to show our support for the complicated work you have undertaken of finding consensus on how to discuss issues related to access to health for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals. We are dismayed that the topic has become so contentious and difficult to discuss, but we write to encourage you to persevere and bring these very important and appropriate health concerns to the work of the World Health Organization.
We represent a variety of health, HIV, human rights, and LGBT organizations which all work in some manner on the real impact of discrimination against individuals based on actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity. This discrimination is rampant in all of our societies, despite differences of culture, economics, politics, or legal status of homosexuality. Such discrimination directly impacts the health outcomes of these communities. Whenever any group of people–no mater how marginalized–experience disparate health outcomes, that is of legitimate interest to the WHO and deserves to be studied and understood fully. We appreciate that you have personally taken the time to ensure that the Executive Board of the WHO will address these issues appropriately.
As you know, reports from every region of the world show that LGBT citizens lack equal access to health care, and experience real discrimination based on exposing their sexual orientation, sexuality, gender identity, gender expression, or bodily diversity in health care settings. Such discrimination takes many different forms including outright denial of services, harassment, embarrassment, violence and arrest, as well as internalized stigma and shame. Such experiences lead directly and indirectly to bad health outcomes, such as higher incidents of depression, drug and alcohol use, lack of HIV prevention and treatment, and even suicide. Cancer-related health disparities for lesbian women have been indicated in a variety of studies, and transgender individuals receive particularly poor or no appropriate health services specific to their needs.
We write today to encourage continued dialogue and discussion of these important health matters, and to make sure that the item does not get permanently postponed or deleted from the agenda of the Executive Board. We further urge the Secretariat of WHO to engage in further study and
research on the health outcomes for LGBT communities in all parts of the world, since a disproportionate amount of existing data comes from Global North countries. It is imperative that the WHO encourage thoughtful and unbiased study in all regions of the world.
This is an important moment in the evolution of global health to address the particular health challenges of LGBT populations. This is indeed a critical next step for WHO to help improve the vital and universal access to health for LGBT people.
Should there be anything we can do to support this effort, please let us know.
With respect and hope for a healthier world,