We fixate so much on sexually transmitted diseases like HIV that we neglect the other issues LGBTQ+ individuals face that prevent them from accessing healthcare in the first place.
One day, a young man walked into my medical clinic in Nairobi, Kenya. He was accompanied by almost a whole villageâ€Š—â€Šmother, uncle, brothers. I asked him how old he was. He said twenty-one. I told the rest of them to get out of my consultation room. They seemed uncomfortable.
He had come in because of a boil which, after examination, I informed him was a fistula that would need surgical intervention. It was only after speaking to him at some length that he shared that he was gay and HIV-positive. The reason this group of relatives accompanied him, he said, is because they did not want him to disclose that information and disgrace the family.
Before I was able to finish the examination, his mother barged in, asking, “Why have you stayed so long with him?” I responded that I get to decide how long I stay with my patients, not her. She grabbed him and left. I slipped my card to the young man and told him to call me, but he never did. I lost that patient. I lost him completely.
But it got me thinking: how many more people do we lock out of healthcare because of their sexual orientation?