Healthcare professionals encounter many aspects of human diversity when providing care, including different variations of human sexuality.
A large body of scientific research indicates that homosexuality is a natural variation of human sexuality without any intrinsically harmful health effects. Direct and indirect discrimination, stigmatisation, peer rejection and bullying continue to have a serious impact on the psychological and physical health of people within the LGBT community. Research has shown that due to stigma and ignorance within society as well as health systems, those in the LGBT community are not able to access adequate or appropriate patient-centered healthcare. In addition to substandard care, they may be prevented from taking advantage of healthcare services available to other members of the population (WHO/PAHO, 2013).
These negative experiences lead to higher prevalence rates of depression, anxiety disorders, substance misuse and suicidal thoughts and attempts. For example, the suicide rate among adolescents and young adults with a homosexual or bisexual orientation is consequently four times higher than that of their peers in some countries (CDC, 2017).
The issue of confidentiality is of particular concern to the LGBT population as well. In addition to stigmatization, disclosure of LGBT status may lead to discrimination, arrests, physical harm or even capital punishment. For this reason, people in the LGBT community may avoid healthcare testing and/or treatment, leading to health disparities (Clark, 2014). For example, lesbian and bisexual women are less likely to use preventive health services and therefore may have a greater chance of having breast cancer or being obese. In addition, gay men have a higher chance of contracting STIs such as HIV and viral hepatitis (WHO/PAHO, 2013).
The World Medical Association condemns all forms of stigmatisation, criminalisation and discrimination of people based on their sexual orientation, and asserts that psychiatric or psychotherapeutic approaches to treatment must not focus upon homosexuality itself, but rather upon the conflicts which arise between homosexuality and religious, social and internalised norms and prejudices.