AIDS Concern has launched the Dr. Rainbow Scheme, the first of its kind in Hong Kong, to promote gay-friendly healthcare and improve gay men’s access to sensitive healthcare services in the city.
Local gay men report to AIDS Concern that they feel deterred from seeking medical services because of the unpleasant experiences they experienced in medical situations, and the general social stigma to gay identity. In particular stigma can prevent them from disclosing their sexuality in medical consultations even if it is related to their health condition. This has an adverse impact on the health of gay men, as well as on the prevention and treatment of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.
From January to February 2016, AIDS Concern conducted an online survey with 138 gay men. The results show that…
· 9.2% of the respondents (n=12) reported facing discrimination or unfriendly treatment by medical staff because of their sexual orientation.
· 21.4% (n=28) stated they would not seek medical services for fear of disclosing their sexual orientation.
· 58% (n=76) said they would not disclose information regarding their sexual orientation such as homosexual practices when seeking medical services related to sexual health.
· 78% (n=108) stated that ‘gay-friendliness’ is an important factor for them in choosing medical services.
Although it is currently a violation of ‘The Code of Professional Conduct’ for medical practitioners to discriminate against a patient on the basis of sexual orientation, only 33% of the respondents knew that they can go to the Medical Council to seek help when they have faced discrimination in medical situations.
A gay client, Jacky, reports that once he sought medical assistance from a doctor and took the initiative to disclose that he had had sex with men in the hope of having more accurate diagnosis. The doctor then cited the Bible and said God forbids homosexuality. The doctor then gave Jacky medication without any normal medical check-up procedures. Later, Jacky saw the doctor again on another occasion. The doctor asked Jacky in an unfriendly manner if he was still homosexual once he entered the room. After these unpleasant experiences, Jacky would not take the initiative to disclose his sexual experiences to doctors anymore.
Andrew Chidgey, Chief Executive of AIDS Concern, says, ‘We believe doctors who aren’t gay friendly often do not discriminate against gay patients on purpose. However, a lack of understanding about the sensitivity and culture of the gay community can pose a barrier to the communication between the doctor and patient.’
To increase the doctors’ understanding about how to deal with patients of different sexualities, AIDS Concern holds workshops for doctors on gay culture and healthcare needs. Sabrina Chan, Senior Policy and Advocacy Officer at AIDS Concern says:
‘In our workshops, we dispel misconceptions about the gay community, and invite doctors to share tips on how to communicate with patients of different sexualities with more sensitivity. By providing the doctors with resources that facilitate their effective communication with gay patients, we hope to ensure that the gay community can get access to sensitive and friendly healthcare services.’
Dr. Tsang Kay-yan, specialist in Infectious Diseases, makes recommendations to doctors on how to be more friendly to patients of different sexualities in consultation. Dr. Tsang says:
‘Doctors can avoid making assumptions about the sexual orientation of the patients to give the impression that they are non-judgmental about different sexualities. They can also take a further step to reassure the patient verbally that the information about sexual orientation will be kept confidential, so that the patients will feel more confident to disclose information regarding their sexuality when necessary.’
To more widely promote gay-friendly healthcare practices in the medical field, AIDS Concern is seeking opportunities to collaborate with different medical associations to hold symposiums and training workshops to different health professionals. Doctors who wish to join the Scheme are welcome to contact AIDS Concern. The Scheme is a finalist of the LGBT Community Impact Award organized by Community Business.
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