Today, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius spoke before the World Health Assembly on the topic of of the LGBT community’s access to healthcare around the world. Echoing State Secretary Hillary Clinton’s remarks last year at the United Nations, Sebelius said that “everyone has a basic right” to healthcare and barriers that discriminate against people for their sexual orientation or gender identity must be broken down:
SEBELIUS: This can take the form of outright discrimination, like when people are given substandard care or are turned away from a hospital or local clinic because they happen to be lesbian or gay.
Often, the barriers are more subtle, like when doctors and nurses don’t take the time to understand the health needs of their LGBT patients
In other cases, health care providers violate patient confidentiality and disclose the sexual orientation of their LGBT patients. This can put LGBT people who are not “out” in their communities, at risk of discrimination, social exclusion, physical violence, or even death. And it leads many LGBT people to risk traveling to distant care facilities in order to prevent this from happening.
Because of this, LGBT populations are often invisible and unacknowledged. But they are there, in considerable numbers, in every country in the world.
Sebelius also acknowledged that she’s all too familiar with these barriers “because they still exist in my own country.”