The largest group of internal medicine doctors in the U.S. came out Monday in support of policies it says will improve the health of the country's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.
Those policies include support for civil marriage rights for same-sex couples, opposition to so-called conversion or reparative therapy and support for health insurance plans that include comprehensive transgender healthcare services.
"The LGBT community deserves the same high quality care that any community in the United States should be getting, but may not be getting," said Dr. Wayne J. Riley, president of the American College of Physicians.
A new policy position paper from the college, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, is the result of more than a year of work, Riley told Reuters Health.
"It’s based upon our longstanding policy in regard to eliminating healthcare disparities," said Riley, who is also a clinical professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville.
The LGBT community faces similar health concerns as the rest of the population, according to the organization in its paper, but some disparities may be worse among LGBT people.
For example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that some 1.1 million people in the U.S. are living with HIV. About one case in six is undiagnosed.
While the CDC says only about 4 percent of U.S. men are gay or bisexual, they represent about two-thirds of the country’s new infections.
Also, the American College of Physicians writes that lesbian and bisexual women are less likely to be screened for breast or cervical cancer, compared to heterosexual women.
A separate paper in the same issue of the journal reports that lesbian girls and women are less likely to receive the human papillomavirus vaccine, which helps prevent cervical cancer.
The position paper identifies nine policy positions the organization supports. For example, it says that gender identity, which is different than sexual orientation, be included in nondiscrimination and antiharassment policies.
Also, the organization says health insurance plans should include comprehensive transgender healthcare services and provide all services to transgender people as they would to others.
"It focuses in on making sure that transgender individuals can access the appropriate level of healthcare services to provide them with the opportunities that you or I and anybody else has with health and wellness," Riley said.
The paper also comes out against the use of so-called conversion or reparative therapy, which has been banned by an increasing number of U.S. states.
"We agree conversion therapy is not a wise use of healthcare resources," Riley said.
The organization also supports civil marriage rights for same-sex couples. Denying those rights has a negative impact on physical and mental health, and contributes to stigma and discrimination, it says.
The top editors of the New England Journal of Medicine also urged the U.S. Supreme Court to require "the full recognition of same-sex marriage," in a recent editorial.
"It’s important, because we know from our members that simple things like hospital visitation and participation in the care of LGBT patients has e problem around the country," Riley said.
The quality of healthcare should be consistently provided for all population groups, he said.
"This speaks to the fact that the nation's largest specialty society comes down on the side of health equity for all," he added.