Friday, 22 May 2015

[Straits Times] Eliminating stigmatisation critical to public health

I AGREE with Ms Ho Lay Ping that the state should shape policies by promoting and upholding things that are good for society ("Not approving of gay lifestyle isn't stigmatisation"; Forum Online, Wednesday).
Unfortunately, Ms Ho offered an overly simplistic view of this critical issue.
While no one is denied medical services based on his lifestyle in Singapore, social stigma against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people has been shown to prevent effective and timely access to medical care for LGBT people.
This results in the higher incidence of health problems and lower quality of life that LGBT people experience.
Research by health organisations worldwide, such as Britain's Health First and the United States' National League of Nursing, has shown that stigmatisation continues to be a primary barrier for LGBT people to receive medical care.
This is a result of systematic discrimination arising from heterosexism and homophobia, and a lack of cultural competency in the healthcare system to care for LGBT patients.
Furthermore, researchers from the University of Iowa found that many LGBT patients expressed reluctance to reveal their sexual orientation or gender identity to their providers, despite the importance of such information for their healthcare.
This is because of prior experiences of bias or the expectation of poor treatment as a result of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Eliminating stigmatisation towards LGBT people is, therefore, critical to promoting public health by improving access and support for them to seek medical care.
It was, therefore, a laudable first step that the Health Promotion Board launched the "FAQs On Sexuality" last year to "safeguard public health", as the Minister for Health asserted in Parliament.
Similarly, the International HIV/Aids Alliance launched a new global campaign earlier this month, calling for fair and equal access to healthcare for LGBT people, who are denied access to life-saving healthcare and HIV services because of punitive laws and policies that discriminate on the basis of sexual identity.
In contrast, the Russian government's increasingly conservative "pro-family" agenda has caused the HIV/Aids epidemic to worsen. The country's top Aids expert Vadim Pokrovsky has estimated that an additional two million Russians are likely to be infected over the next five years as a result of policies promoting "traditional family values".
It is, therefore, correct for Ms Ho to believe that she is indeed driving LGBT people to their deaths by perpetuating the stigmatisation of LGBT people with her rhetoric of "the gay lifestyle".
Daryl Yang Wei Jian