Delaware's LGBT community focuses on health this week.
The past year was a banner one for LGBT rights issues. More states legalized same sex marriage and anti-discrimination protections for transgender individuals were increased and implemented into federal law.
Even so, LGBT advocates say there’s still work to be done. One area the community is focusing on this week is the need for greater cultural competency in the healthcare system.
Gov, Jack Markell (D-Delaware) will present a proclamation Wednesday in recognition of LGBTQ Health Equality Week.
Local advocates say the nationally recognized awareness campaign is an opportunity to bring attention to the unique health needs of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender population.
Salvatore Seely, Program Director of Health and Wellness at the Camp Rehoboth LGBT Community Center says one area of growing concern is Delaware’s aging gay population.
“You know they were the first to fight our battles for equality back in the sixties and now they’re really facing issues of being gay and getting older,” he says. “A lot of these men and women; they’re facing the realization that they might have to go back in the closet in order to receive care for themselves or their partner. What we’re seeing is a lot of these men and women fear discrimination by caregivers.”
Seeley adds that it is important for patients to be honest with health professionals.
“We find that many LGBT people find it hard to come out to their health care providers,” he says. “Some of us may still be seeing the same family doctor that we grew up with and we fear that that doctor will be judgmental of our sexuality. We need to have an open and honest dialogue with our doctor, or find a health care provider that will understand our needs.”
LGBT Health Awareness Week concludes Saturday with a health fair at the Camp Rehoboth Community Center. Free health screenings including blood sugar, cholesterol, and bone density will be available to all community members. Details are available at camprehoboth.com