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The Health Impacts of Anti-LGBTQ+ Policies

Last updated: June 2024

LGBTQ+ people often face stigma and discrimination when it comes to accessing health services. This contributes to health inequity. For example, anti-LGBTQ+ policies have a negative impact on the mental health of LGBTQ+ youth. And these policies can negatively affect the well-being of LGBTQ+ people living with HIV and other health conditions.1-5

Recent bills targeting LGBTQ+ community

States across the United States continue to propose and pass laws that prohibit gender transition care for minors or the use of public funds to provide it. Some states have introduced bills targeting gender-neutral bathrooms, proper pronoun usage, or playing sports on teams that match people’s gender identity.1-3

Fortunately, other states, including Iowa, Minnesota, Mississippi, and Oklahoma, have defeated such bills. You can follow the bills and track legislative updates in your own state via the American Civil Liberties Union’s legislative tracker.1-3

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How are LGBTQ+ people with HIV impacted?

In 2023, the case of Braidwood Management Inc. v. Becerra challenged that insurance companies must offer PrEP for free. Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is highly effective at preventing transmission of HIV during sex about 99 percent of the time. The case is now in the appeals process in the Fifth Circuit of the US Court of Appeals.6

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Meanwhile, some states have started to introduce legislation to increase access to PrEP. One example is Louisiana’s HB 579. If signed into law, this bill will allow pharmacists to dispense HIV PrEP and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) without a prescription, as well as to perform HIV testing.4

In Rhode Island, two bills are advancing that would get rid of the requirement for prior authorization or step therapy for any HIV prevention drug. They also would prohibit health insurers from requiring any copayment or deductible for HIV prevention drugs.4

To monitor the latest updates, you can search for bills via Equality Federation’s HIV Tracker.4

How do anti-LGBTQ+ policies impact health?

Overall, these policies often deter LGBTQ+ people from seeking care for acute and chronic conditions. For some, they increase stress and worry and magnify mental health problems.1-5

In some cases, LGBTQ+ people experience discrimination, violence, and abuse when trying to access care. For instance, Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law and others like it create an atmosphere that shames and isolates LGBTQ + people.5

Mental health

Anti-LGBTQ+ policies impact health access in a variety of ways, but they particularly affect mental health. This is especially true for young adults.3-5

According to a poll by The Trevor Project, nearly 40 percent of LGBTQ+ youth have considered suicide in the last year. And 86 percent of transgender and nonbinary youth say recent debates around anti-trans bills have taken a toll on their mental health.2-3

LGBTQ+ youth report feeling sad or hopeless at twice the rate of their heterosexual peers. Trans youth report bullying and being afraid to go to the doctor. Young people in the LGBTQ+ community are at increased risk for depression, self-harm, and suicide.3-5

Stigma and social stressors

Anti-LGBTQ+ policies can increase stigma and discrimination directed at the LGBTQ+ community. Bills such as Florida’s HB 1557, or “Don’t Say Gay,” make people feel targeted, which can create feelings of shame, stress, and social isolation.3-5

Stress-related health problems

Chronic stress, which many LGBTQ+ people experience, is associated with high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and other serious health conditions. And when people do not feel safe or heard, they often avoid going to the doctor.3-5

Delaying treatment typically leads to more health problems. And LGBTQ+ people are already more at risk for health problems related to stress and poor mental health, including:3-5

  • Increased tobacco use
  • Substance use disorders
  • Mental health conditions
  • Mood disorders
  • HIV and AIDS

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Barriers to care

Anti-LGBTQ+ policies make it harder for LGBTQ+ community members to access the healthcare they need. For example, in some states doctors can deny care based on their religious or personal beliefs. This means some doctors can refuse to see people who are in the LGBTQ+ community. In other cases, LGBTQ+ people have limited access to medical care due to a lack of insurance or where they live.3-5

The large majority of LGBTQ+ youth – nearly 85 percent – want access to mental health care. Yet only 1 in 2 LGBTQ+ youth receive therapy due to stigma, fear, and cost.3

Lack of trust

In addition, these policies may deter LGBTQ+ people from being open and honest about their health concerns. This can lead to:5

  • Distrust between patients, providers, and public health workers
  • Being less likely to disclose sexual orientation and gender identity to providers
  • Health concerns not being addressed in a timely manner
  • Worse overall health outcomes for LGBTQ+ people

Resources for the LGBTQ+ community

Even if you have reservations about going to the doctor, it is important to get the care you need. Seek out healthcare advocates, LGBTQ+ friendly support groups, or mental health and service agencies. Here are some resources that can help:

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