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DLSPH Push Forward Recommendations to Improve Health of LGBTQ2S+ Communities

June 27/2019

By Françoise Makanda, Communications Officer at DLSPH

Trans people do not have access to adequate and inclusive medical care.

Gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men face discriminatory policies when donating blood.

When measuring homelessness, researchers cannot determine how many LGBTQ2S+ youth and young adults experience homelessness.

At its worst, Canada does not collect data on gender identity to the detriment of the community, but that is about to change, says DLSPH Prof. Alex Abramovich.

As Pride Month comes to an end, DLSPH faculty are emboldened to continue to fight for health rights for the LGBTQ2S+ population.

Abramovich, DLSPH Prof. Lori Ross and their Ph.D. students helped develop 23 recommendations put forward to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health that were presented on June 17. If enacted, the recommendations would be life-changing for many in Canada’s LGBTQ2S+ communities.

At its worst, Canada does not collect data on gender identity to the detriment of the community, but that is about to change, says DLSPH Prof. Alex Abramovich.

More importantly, it would allow the government to collect inclusive data, a significant development that the LGBTQ2S+ community has been asking for.

“Trans people are often not included in national health data, such as suicide data. There is still so much that we don’t know regarding LGBTQ2S health. Collecting this data, will allow us to implement interventions and save lives,” says Abramovich.

“It is also time to address the issue of LGBTQ2S youth homelessness nationally. LGBTQ2S youth are overrepresented among the youth homelessness population in Canada, however, national Point-in-Time counts and street needs assessments, up until very recently, have not collected inclusive data.”

Abramovich has been studying the issue of homelessness among LGBTQ2S+ youth and young adults for over a decade and does a lot of work in the area of trans health. With enough data, he says, public health specialists can provide safe housing for LGBTQ2S+ youths, and education for health providers across Canada.

The report also recommends an end to all discriminatory practices related to blood, organ and tissue donation for men who have sex with men and trans people.

“I am thrilled this report has meaningfully included the research findings of community-based organizations I am fortunate to work with, including the Community-Based Research Centre (CBRC),” says DLSPH Daniel Grace.

In a recently published qualitative study in the BMC Public Health, Grace spoke to 47 Canadian men who wanted policies to catch up to existing evidence on HIV testing. “’My blood is not supposed to be better or worse,’” an HIV-negative man told Grace. “’We should look more at risky sexual behaviour – independently of a person’s sexual orientation or gender.’”

To give blood, just three years ago, a man had to abstain from all sexual contact with other men for at least 12 months. Currently, the deferral period is three months – an incremental step in the right direction, but still discriminatory, says Grace.

In his latest op-ed in the Straight, Grace and his CBRC collaborators expressed the importance of making scientifically-informed blood donation policy that removes discriminatory bans while ensuring Canada’s blood supply is safe and readily-available.

While problems continue to persist in LGBTQ2S+ health, Abramovich is undeterred.

“This study on LGBTQ2S health that the committee undertook is historic. Many people have waited a long time for something like this to happen. I am honoured to have been invited as a witness, especially as a trans-identified researcher, studying LGBTQ2S youth homelessness.”

A comprehensive response from the government to this report will be tabled in 60 days.