Report: Study of Gay, Transgender Health Needed

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WASHINGTON (AP) - Scientists only recently learned how certain diseases affect women differently than men, and blacks differently than whites. Now a major new report says it's time to study the unique health needs of gay and transgender people, too.Stigma often keeps lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from seeking health care - and when they do, there's little research to guide doctors in their treatment, the Institute of Medicine reported Thursday.Changing that starts with a seemingly simple step: Researchers should start asking people about their sexual orientation and gender identity, just as they routinely ask about race and ethnicity, in all government-funded health studies, the panel concluded.The report is intended as technical advice to the National Institutes of Health.But to the gay-rights community, the recommendations from such a prestigious scientific group promise to legitimize a quest for greater health equality."This community is just ignored," said Brian Moulton of the Human Rights Campaign, which has long pushed for the government to collect the kind of health data the new report calls for.

"This is really going to spark a long-term commitment to dealing with these issues."While the report says it also is an opportunity to educate the general public about health barriers for the self-named LGBT community, its chairman anticipates some political criticism."This is a scientific report, not an advocacy report," said Dr. Robert Graham, professor of family medicine at the University of Cincinnati. "Whatever your politics, as long as you accept the premise that every American ought to have the opportunity for the same health status and the same degree of health, then you really have to understand what the different influences are that may keep certain populations away from having that opportunity. …