One Colorado Kicks Off LGBTQ Health Awareness Week

Denver, CO — One Colorado, the state’s leading advocacy organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) Coloradans and their families, released the following statements on the first day of LGBTQ Health Awareness Week:

“During this time of uncertainty, One Colorado remains committed to providing important information and creating a supportive community for LGBTQ Coloradans, their families, and allies. Working together to improve our personal health and the health of our loved ones is more important than ever. This year during LGBTQ Health Awareness Week, One Colorado will share information about health issues that impact LGBTQ people and offer resources to achieve better health outcomes for our community. 

In our 2018 ‘Closing the Gap’ health report, we learned that one out of five LGBTQ Coloradans think that their sexual orientation or gender identity has nothing to do with their health. This week, we want to encourage people to be open with their health care providers and knowledgeable about their own health. While there is much more work to be done at the provider and healthcare systems level, taking control of our personal health is one way we can close the gap on the health disparities between LGBTQ Coloradans and their non-LGBTQ peers.”

– Daniel Ramos, One Colorado Executive Director

“Our health is one of the most important aspects of our daily lives. Yet, we rarely take the time to discuss, to learn, and to take action to improve our health. The One Colorado team is excited to use this week to raise awareness about the additional challenges LGBTQ people face in achieving their optimal health, and what we can do to overcome these barriers. We’ll be hosting events, sharing stories, citing data and experts, and hearing from our supporters—stay tuned!”

– Marvyn Allen, Health Equity & Training Director

“I believe that when the LGBTQ+ community feels that there are safe and affirming places to receive care, they will be more likely to receive preventative care and not wait until they have emergent issues. I also believe that all people should have access to the care they need when they need it, which is why we are continuing to train more providers and hire more surgeons to meet the demands of the community.”

– Kari Kuka, LGBTQ Center of Excellence, Denver Health

One Colorado launched into LGBTQ Health Awareness Week on March 20th, by hosting the first of three virtual ‘What the LGBTQ Health?’ Closing the Gap Statewide Tour learning and discussion events. ‘What the LBGTQ Health’ was initially planned as a traveling tour with twelve stops across Colorado, but is postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. LGBTQ individuals have increased vulnerability to COVID-19 due to three factors:

  1. The LGBTQ population uses tobacco at rates that are 50% higher than the general population. COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that has proven particularly harmful to smokers.
  2. The LGBTQ population has higher rates of HIV and cancer, which means a greater number of us may have compromised immune systems, leaving us more vulnerable to COVID-19 infections.
  3. LGBTQ people continue to experience discrimination, unwelcoming attitudes, and lack of understanding from providers and staff in many health care settings, and as a result, many are reluctant to seek medical care except in situations that feel urgent – and perhaps not even then. Access to affirming, affordable healthcare is a barrier for many in our communities. 

The purpose of ‘What the LGBTQ Health’? is to share information gathered from One Colorado’s 2018 health report called Closing the Gap: The Turning Point for LGBTQ Health, and hear about the experiences of LGBTQ individuals, their families, and allies in communities across the state. The remaining virtual “tour stops” will be held on Thursday, April 2nd from 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM (sign up here) and Sunday, April 19th from 2:00 PM – 4:00 PM (sign up here).

Over the weekend, One Colorado shared information about health topics pertaining to LGBTQ youth and promoted the HIV prevention bill (HB20-1061), which is making its way through the legislative process. Other topics highlighted this week will include transgender health, mental health, self-care and wellness, and personal health.

LGBTQ Health Awareness Week, recognized March 23rd – March 27th, is a week-long observance to bring awareness to the unique health needs and disparities of the LGBTQ community. LGBTQ people encounter discrimination in employment, relationship recognition, and insurance coverage on a regular basis. Consequently, they are less likely to be able to afford critical health care than their straight and non-transgender peers. For LGBTQ people of color, barriers to care and health disparities are even greater. This is the 18th annual observance of LGBTQ Health Awareness Week.

Here are a few important data points from One Colorado’s Closing the Gap report:

  • More than ever before, most of LGBTQ Coloradans – 95% – have health insurance, yet one in five people have been denied care by a provider for being LGBTQ.
  • LGBTQ Coloradans are more than three times as likely to be diagnosed with anxiety and/or depression than the general public. LGBT youth are twice as likely to attempt suicide than their non-LGBT peers.
  • Thirty-four percent of transgender respondents have been denied coverage for an LGBTQ-specific medical services, like HIV medications, hormones, PrEP, PEP, HPV, vaccine, gender-affirming care.
  • LGBTQ folks experience barriers to coming out to their health care providers like worries around the provider not being supportive of LGBTQ people and being afraid of discrimination. Some LGBTQ Coloradans – 22% – feel their sexual orientation and gender identity have nothing to do with their health.