June 16, 2022 — With social stigmas and discrimination surrounding the LGBTQ+ community, members of this population are less likely to seek preventive medical care, are at greater risk for sexually transmitted diseases and have a higher prevalence of mental health issues than heterosexual populations, according to the U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.
Volunteers at the UF College of Medicine’s Equal Access Clinic Network are working to address some of these challenges. The Equal Access Clinic, a network of student-run, free health care clinics, provides care to all community members and hosts specialty nights such as one for Spanish-speaking patients and another for young patients.
Since 2016, the EAC has also hosted monthly LGBTQ clinics to provide a safe space for community members to access free health screenings.
Thomas Reilly, a second-year medical student and LGBTQ clinic officer, began volunteering with the clinic during his first year and said he is interested in impacting LGBTQ+ health because they often face worse health outcomes than the general population.
“Doctors need to know sensitive information about their patients, like their sexual and mental health history, in order to best treat them,” he said. “This can be uncomfortable for any patient but especially so for LGBT individuals, as they often feel that their doctor will pass judgment on them or treat them differently once they learn about their sexuality or gender identity. That’s why we need doctors and students like the ones we have at our clinic.”