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Open, honest conversations key in reducing LGBTQ health disparities

LGBTQ patients are at higher risk for sexually transmitted infections, HIV and certain cancers. Community Health Network  primary care physician Dr. Mike Giffen said LGBTQ friendly health providers are crucial in reducing these health disparities.
(Lauren Chapman/IPB News)
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LGBTQ patients are at higher risk for sexually transmitted infections, HIV and certain cancers. Community Health Network primary care physician Dr. Mike Giffen said LGBTQ friendly health providers are crucial in reducing these health disparities.

LGBTQ patients are at higher risk for sexually transmitted infections, HIV and certain cancers. Community Health Network primary care physician Dr. Mike Giffen said LGBTQ-friendly health providers are crucial in reducing these health disparities.

“If the provider is not open, if the patient's not comfortable and not open, we kind of gloss over a lot of stuff,” Giffen said. “And that's where a lot of this stuff is missed.”

Giffen said trust is key in developing patient-provider relationships that are open and honest, especially if the patient is a member of the LGBTQ community. He said if trust is not built, health disparities in the community will continue.

“So that's why this is super important, is to try to kind of break down those disparities and kind of actually level the playing field and get patients the care they deserve,” he said.

Giffen said the LGBTQ community also faces higher rates of anxiety, depression and other mental health disparities. As a primary care physician, he helps those in need of hormone replacement therapy, surgery or other gender-affirming medical care. He said he has created a tight-knit community with other LGBTQ-friendly providers across the state.

“I've built a nice network of connections of different surgeons and differenttherapists and counselors kind of across the board,” Giffen said. “Anything of a person who really needs their care.”

Giffen said he understands many people are hesitant to get medical care. He said he wants to make sure patients feel comfortable.

“People always think they come to a doctor and they need to have a lot of issues and a lot of stuff has to be up front,” he said. “Meeting with a patient can be literally just a conversation. ‘Hey, it's good to meet you. Let's make sure this is a good, you know, interaction. And if you feel comfortable, we can move forward.’”

Contact reporter Darian Benson at dbenson@wfyi.org. Follow on Twitter: @helloimdarian.

Copyright 2022 WFYI Public Media

Darian Benson is a reporter based at WFYI in Indianapolis. An Indy native, she is eager to report on public health in her hometown. Darian graduated with a journalism degree from Indiana Unviersity- Purdue University Indianapolis. Previously, she covered city and public policy for WFYI and statewide public health for Indiana Public Broadcasting.