Members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community can face difficulty in coming out to friends or loved ones. But what about coming out to your doctor? According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, LGBT individuals can face challenges accessing medical care, including “stigma, discrimination, violence, and rejection by families and communities, as well as other barriers, such as inequality in the workplace and health insurance sectors, the provision of substandard care, and outright denial of care because of an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity.” A recent Gallup survey also says LGBT Americans are more likely not to have health insurance, or struggle to afford healthcare, than the rest of the population.
To combat this, a gay medical student at Georgia Regents University in Augusta came up with an idea: a free clinic to serve the city’s gay and lesbian community...especially those who are uninsured or underinsured.
“The purpose of this clinic is to make this more welcoming, more inviting more understanding,” says Dr. David Kriegel, who teaches at GRU and is medical director of the newly opened Equality Clinic. “And therefore, have people come in because these folks are willing to listen and to understand and to learn.”
The clinic will be staffed by doctors and medical students from Georgia Regents, who are volunteering their time. For the students, Dr. Kriegel says it’s an opportunity to learn how to interact with LGBT patients in a respectful manner. While it’s is housed on GRU’s medical campus, the clinic’s founders raised private funds to open it.
Atlanta is known for its large gay community, but Dr. Kriegel says Augusta’s LGBT population needs health services.
“They might not be out or feel comfortable coming out in this particular community,” he says. “That’s not true for every individual, obviously. But knowing they have a health resource they can go to where they can be comfortable with their identity and their sexuality will, of course, be useful.”