Experts Call for Overhaul of Transgender Health Practices Worldwide

A major medical journal addressed issues in transgender health care.

ByGillian Mohney and Dr. Amy Glick
June 17, 2016, 6:07 PM
PHOTO: A protester holds an American flag and rainbow flag in front of the Miami-Dade Courthouse to show his support of the LGBTQ couples, July 2, 2014, in Miami.
A protester holds an American flag and rainbow flag in front of the Miami-Dade Courthouse to show his support of the LGBTQ couples, July 2, 2014, in Miami.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

— -- The various health disparities faced by transgender people has been spotlighted in a series of articles published today in the Lancet Medical Journal, with multiple health experts in three papers calling for action to improve the health and well-being of an estimated 25 million transgender people worldwide.

In a first-of-its-kind assessment, the experts focused on the health of transgender people worldwide. The authors from a variety of institutions, including Johns Hopkins University, University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom and the United Nations Development Program, explained how transgender people face serious stigma, discrimination and marginalization, which can affect mental and physical health.

The articles also focused on the specific health problems that transgender people are more likely to face, including a 60 percent rate of depression, a risk of HIV infection that is 50 times greater than the general population, and violence or harassment from others in their community.

“Many of the health challenges faced by transgender people are exacerbated by laws and policies that deny them gender recognition. In no other community is the link between rights and health so clearly visible as in the transgender community,” Sam Winter, one of the lead authors for the series and associate professor at Curtin University in Australia, said in a statement today.

“Faced with stigma, discrimination and abuse, transgender people are pushed to the margins of society, excluded from the workplace, their families and health care. Many are drawn into risky situations or behaviours, such as unsafe sex or substance abuse, which leave them at risk of further ill health," Winter added.

The articles were published to coincide with the World Professional Association for Transgender Health symposium in Amsterdam.

In the three published papers, the authors called for a variety of actions to be taken in order to help protect the health of transgender people. The recommendations included calling on the World Health Organization to remove a diagnosis of transgender from its section on mental health, asking physicians to be trained in transgender health care and allowing transgender people to access feminizing and masculinizing hormones.

Dr. William Byne, an expert in transgender health issues and a professor of psychiatry at Mt. Sinai Medical Center and a staff psychiatrist at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, told ABC News that the articles may help increase awareness in the medical field of specific health disparities faced by transgender people.

"It's really bringing it to a wide audience and making it mainstream, which I think is really important," Byne said.

In the U.S., only 33 percent of medical schools currently teach transgender health care, Byne noted, and even those that do spend on average just five hours on the subject.

"We have woefully under-prepared medical practitioners who are not ready to meet the needs of our LGBT patients," Byne said. "There's a need to increase awareness and this article in the Lancet is going to do that."

Dr. Amy Glick is a resident at the ABC News Medical Unit. She completed her training in psychiatry at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York.

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