Advancing and promoting the health needs of American Indian/Alaska Natives (AI/ANs) who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) was the aim of a listening session the IHS recently held. At the session, 28 participants from 6 IHS areas discussed concerns in a “dynamic and productive conversation” with senior IHS officials.
The session revealed 5 major themes:
- Eligibility for services—such as conception services, same-sex marriage and its impact on eligibility for services, and the ability of patients to self-identify as LGBT at IHS facilities
- Clinical services—such as hormone therapy, pre-exposure prophylaxis for HIV prevention, LGBT-inclusive care training for clinicians and IHS staff, and models of care that effectively address LGBT patient needs
- Behavioral health—inclusion of traditional healers and parents in youth suicide prevention, trauma-informed care for LGBT persons, and outreach for people facing homelessness or unstable housing
- Youth concerns—resources for young people who want to self-identify but face discrimination, wide availability of public service announcements that include LGBT voices and faces, and year-round or routine ways to include youth voices in agency-wide planning
- Organizational strategies—engaging tribes in addressing LGBT persons’ needs and continued ways for LGBT people to share their experiences and suggestions with the agency
IHS recently closed a formal public comment period on several key dimensions of the health needs of the AI/AN LGBT communities. In a blog about the session, Robert McSwain, principal deputy director, says IHS has taken important steps toward securing “a legacy of transparent, accountable, fair, and inclusive decision-making specific to American Indian and Alaska Native LGBT individuals.”