Study: Transgender People Have Less Health Care Access

| by Michael Doherty
A pile of pills.A pile of pills.

Transgender people face serious difficulties in getting adequate health care, despite higher rates of HIV/AIDS and mental illness, according to a new series of papers released by The Lancet medical journal on June 17.

The transgender community is still the subject of stigma and discrimination, making access to medical care a greater challenge than those who are not transgender, said the first of the series of studies, according to Reuters.

Transgender individuals face an up to 60 percent higher risk of depression, partly because of high rates of discrimination and abuse which endanger their physical and mental health.

Additionally, many transgender people are forced into survival sex work or develop substance abuse issues, because of instability in housing and employment. Transgender people have an almost 50 times higher risk of contracting HIV than the rate for the general population, Reuters reports.

More than 2,000 murders of transgender people have been documented around the world since 2008. In Europe, eight countries do not offer legal recognition to transgender people, and 17 European countries stipulate they must be sterilized before receiving legal recognition.

The difficulty in obtaining legal recognition of one's name and gender can be a barrier to essential tasks, such as opening a bank account and applying for jobs, as well as receiving health care and insurance, according to Transgender Europe.

"I experience so much discrimination, harassment and violence that it has become my daily life," said one transgender respondent in an LGBT survey of Europe published by the European Union Fundamental Rights Agency. The survey also found that transgender people are twice as likely to be discriminated against when applying for jobs than lesbian, gay and bisexual people.

One of the papers released by The Lancet called for the World Health Organization to take diagnoses for transgender people out of a chapter of a medical text about "mental and behavioral disorders," and move it to a chapter about "conditions related to sexual health."

The authors of that paper also called for health care for trans people, such as hormone replacement therapy, to be covered financially in the same way as other medication.

"The message for healthcare providers is that transgender people, wherever they live, and whatever the area of their lives, have the same rights as their compatriots to the highest attained standard of health," said Sam Winter, one of the lead authors of the papers published in The Lancet.

Source: Reuters, Transgender Europe, The Lancet / Photo credit: Victor/Flickr

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