|June 18, 2001
First National Lesbian Health Conference
The first National Lesbian Health
Conference, to be held at UCSF June 22 and 23 in conjunction with the citys Pride
Week Celebrations, will focus on a wide range of physical, mental and social issues that
affect the health of lesbians.
The conference will take place on Friday and
Saturday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., at the UCSF Laurel Heights Conference Center.
More than 70 presentations will cover a range of
topics including: substance abuse, HIV prevention, older womens health, health
screening, cancer prevention and treatment, reproductive health, cultural diversity,
dating and domestic violence, and challenges for disabled lesbians. The event also
features a benefit concert by activist, artist, singer Holly Near.
There is an aura of perceived or actual
discrimination that occurs when lesbians interact with the healthcare system.
Consequently, many lesbians dont feel comfortable going to health care
providers, said Suzanne Dibble, RN, DNS, co-director of the UCSF Center for Lesbian
Health Research, a co-sponsor of the event along with The Gay and Lesbian Medical
Association (GLMA), and the UCSF Center for Gender Equity. If we say the
L word and get people talking about it, we may be able to help both the health
care provider and recipient come to an understanding of all the unique issues involved in
lesbian health care. Common fallacies include the notion that lesbians do not get
cervical or ovarian cancer, are not at risk for sexually transmitted disease, do not have
children, and do not suffer from domestic violence, to name just a few. This
conference is an important step toward separating myth from reality in lesbian health
care, she said.
Speakers include Byllye Avery, MEd, founder of
the National Black Womens Health Project; Kate OHanlan, MD, researcher, writer
and founder of the Lesbian Health Fund; and Caitlin Ryan, MSW, author and director of
Policy Studies for the Institute on Sexuality, Inequality, and Health in the Human
Sexuality Studies Program at San Francisco State University.
For more information, call 415/244-4547 or visit
the website. Holly Near
will perform Friday night, 8-10 p.m., at the conference site. Tickets are $25.
following are descriptions of some conference presentations:
The Gay Baby (Gaby) Boom:
Reproductive health and choice have been almost exclusively defined as a heterosexual
womans agenda. As such, national choice and womens health organizations make
little or no reference to the reproductive health needs of lesbians. The Gaby
boom is enormously class-biased because reproductive technologies are just not accessible
to lesbian women, according to Judy Bradford, PhD, assistant professor in the
department of preventive medicine and community health at the Medical college of Virginia,
Virginia Commonwealth University.
Lesbians Often Delay Seeking Health Care:
In the March 2001 issue of Journal of the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association, UCSF
researchers report that lesbians delayed seeking health care because of fear of
discrimination. When they delay care they put their own health and often the health of
their children at risk, according to Mary Ann van Dam, RN, MS, PNP, UCSF assistant
professor of pediatric nursing. Researchers also reported that less than half of health
care providers actively sought sexual identity information from patients.
Dating Violence Among Lesbian and
Bisexual Teenagers: Compared to heterosexuals, bisexual females have greater odds
of experiencing sexual abuse, regardless of age. In addition, lesbians have greater odds
of being frightened for their safety compared to heterosexual females, and bisexuals are
more likely to be threatened with outing compared to gay males/lesbians. These
findings underscore the need for dating violence outreach and prevention efforts to be
targeted to reach LGB adolescents, according to researchers.
Domestic Violence: According to
statistics collected by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, BLGT couples
have domestic violence rates between 24 and 33 percent comparable to findings for
heterosexual couples. Homophobia, heterosexism, racism and other forms of prejudice can
intensify a domestic violence survivors experience, according to researchers.
Lesbians and Breast Cancer: The
LBT womens community is diverse, hidden and difficult to reach with breast health
messages, even though research is indicating that lesbians have an increased risk of
breast cancer. Researchers will discuss findings about lesbians and the prevention and
treatment of breast cancer.
Lesbians and Tobacco Use: Studies
suggest that the prevalence of smoking may be higher among lesbian and bisexual women than
among heterosexual women. Compared to heterosexual girls, lesbian and bisexual girls have
significantly greater odds of trying cigarettes, being regular smokers, and having friends
who are smokers (controlling for age). Among girls who have tried cigarettes, lesbians and
bisexual girls are more strongly addicted than are their heterosexual peers, according to
Lesbians Living With HIV: As a
group, lesbians are not recognized as being vulnerable to HIV infection. If most gay
people with HIV are men, and most women with HIV are heterosexual, and most lesbians think
that HIV infection is a problem outside their community, then is there a place where
lesbians living with HIV can find comfort, familiarity and understanding? Researchers
address this question by presenting results of interviews with eleven lesbian or bisexual
women living with HIV.
Source: Maureen McInaney
Gay and Lesbian Medical