Current Affairs

Patients won’t tell doctors “I am Gay”

Katherine Knowles March 24, 2006
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An online survey conducted Rainbow Network has revealed a worrying statistic – many gay people do not come out to their doctor and other healthcare professionals.

The survey might be a uncontrolled internet poll, but the trends that it exposes have a widespread significance. 33% of people who answered the survey said that they had not come out to their doctor and further 11% worried that they would be discriminated against if they did.

Though 37% of people who answered the survey were out to their doctor, 12% said they were not open about their sexuality to the other surgery staff such as nurses.

People who took part in the survey came from America and England, and the survey offers a general view of attitudes and behaviour. Worryingly evidence suggests that the real picture in the UK might be even worse.

“We get a lot of gay patients who come to us because they don’t want to tell their GP that they are gay. They’re embarrassed and don’t want it on their health record,” said Doctor Charles Levinson, Medical Director of The Regent’s Park Clinic for Sexual Health.

David Knowles, a Director at The Kings Fund feared that this would cause problems for Health Authorities in planning for future spending: “It is important that patients should be open with their general practitioners, and not only for the sake of their health,” he said . “How can doctors accurately plan for future care if they don’t know what the present situation is?”

Doctor Levinson said the situation gave him grave concerns over patient care: “it is essential that a doctor treating a patient knows exactly what the patient’s sexual habits are. Some sexually transmitted conditions present in odds ways. Syphilis, for example, can often present as general illness, and if the doctor doesn’t know the sexual history of the patient, it could easily be miss treated, or even not treated at all.”

He suggested that GPs look at their own attitudes, in order to make their patients comfortable with disclosing their sexual history. “GPs are sometimes not very good at getting a sexual history from the patient,” he remarked. “They can be embarrassed, which makes it difficult for the patient, especially if they are worried that the doctor will judge them for their sexual preferences or behaviour.”

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