The medical journal The Lancet recently published a series of special articles on transgender health that highlight the need to train young physicians and raise awareness to help reduce the stigma that this minority group has been a victim of. The studies involved in the collection reveal that about 25 million people across the world face inequity regarding health care and legal protections.

Transgender people are often victims of discrimination and abuse at their workplace, and even their families exclude them, which leads to high rates of depression and drug abuse. They also have a hard time finding adequate health care for their condition, and that is linked to the fact that they are at almost 50 times greater risk of contracting HIV compared to the rest of the population.

Transgender community is the one that finds it more difficult to get proper health care. Credit: Medium

Sam Winter, a co-author of the series and associate professor of Curtin University in Australia, said that discriminatory laws and policies are the cause of many of the challenges the group faces when trying to find health care for their special needs. The United Nations Development Program funded the Lancet’s series of editorials and articles.

“In no other community is the link between rights and health so clearly visible as in the transgender community,” Curtin noted, as reported by NBC News.

There are no excuses. Dr. Reisner, a co-author of the collection of studies, said in a statement that most doctors do not recognize gender diversity in spite of the fact that there is enough information for them to know what to do. She and her colleagues wrote in the paper that extensive research has been conducted to show the unique behavioral, biological, structural, and social factors related to the risks transgender people face when undergoing interventions.

Dr. Reisner acknowledged that progress has been made in recognizing transgender people as diverse human beings rather than a group who has a disorder. He remarked that further work needs to be done to close the substantial gaps that lead them to live their lives as if they were not as important as the rest of the population.


James Parker Sheffield, 36, told NBC News that he faced enormous challenges in seeking the proper healthcare he was supposed to get six years ago when he medically transitioned. Born a female, the Georgia native needed reconstructive chest surgery and hormone replacement therapy, but his process required him to travel more than 40 miles to be treated by a doctor who was specialized in transgender health. What is worst, he had no other option but to seek that care at a clinic for women.

The first step to being able to undergo the medical transition, Sheffield said, is to be lucky enough to afford it. Then patients have to search for a physician that understands the condition of someone who wants to change their gender, and that is willing to help.

Sheffield added that people in suburban or rural areas did not have access to that kind of physicians, which forces people to travel long distances to seek the care they need and that means they have to invest a significant amount of money to pay for transportation and accommodation in addition to the medical costs.

Potential solutions

Dr. Beyer noted that young physicians are more welcoming of the idea as they see growing insurance coverage, which leads to the expansion of gender clinics across the country.

For his part, Sheffield, who was finally able to find the right doctor, is currently part of a nonprofit LGBT health organization that focuses on supporting others during their process of seeking adequate healthcare.

“The only way to combat stigma in healthcare is to train young physicians properly,” said Dr. Dana Beyer, a professor at Georgetown and executive director for Gender Rights Maryland, as quoted by NBC News.

He agreed that education is a crucial component of the fight for the rights of transgender people and added doctors should be trained to care for their patients regardless of their gender status.

Source: NBC News