Originally published on Advocate.com March 17 2004 1:00 AM ET
A national survey of both gay and straight adults shows that more than half believe federal research on lesbian and gay health issues is very important, according to officials at Witeck-Combs and Harris Interactive, which conducted the survey. AIDS also was listed as a major health concern by all of the survey respondents.
The survey asked respondents to choose three top national health care priorities from a list of 22 health issues. Half of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered respondents listed AIDS as a top health care priority, followed by fitness and exercise and heart disease. Heterosexual respondents listed AIDS as their number 2 choice, following heart disease and just ahead of obesity. Sexually transmitted diseases were named a top health care priority by just 10% of gay survey respondents and 12% of straight respondents.
Only 19% of gay survey respondents ranked breast cancer as a top health care priority even though the disease is more common among lesbians than heterosexual women; 21% of straight survey respondents ranked breast cancer as one of the top three health priorities. Last year's survey also showed that 24% of gay adults said they had deliberately withheld information about their sexual practices from their health care providers, but that number fell to 21% in this year's survey.
"The fact that LGBT people acknowledge that they withhold information that may help their doctors provide better-quality medical treatment is a serious--and potentially life-threatening--problem," said Kathleen DeBold, executive director of the Mautner Project for Lesbian Health. "Eliminating the barriers to open communication between health care providers and their LGBT patients is essential to reducing mortality and morbidity among this medically underserved community."
Survey respondents also largely favored federal research into health issues that affect gays and lesbians. Fifty-seven percent of heterosexual survey respondents said it was important for the National Institutes of Health to conduct research on such health issues, while 87% of gay respondents said so. The survey of 2,204 adults was conducted online February 16-20. About 6% of the survey respondents self-identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered.