According to a 2022 Center for American Progress study, 15% of LGBTQ Americans report postponing or avoiding medical treatment due to discrimination, including nearly 30% of transgender individuals.
Sam Castro hopes that this year’s Let’s Get Better Together conference helps address gaps, including hesitancy, between the LGBTQ community and health care
For 12 years, the first statewide conference, that focuses on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning and Queer (2SLGBTQIA+) health and human services, has held annual conventions addressing the unique challenges that the community faces when it comes to basic health care access and health education. Castro sits on the organization’s committee and works as a mental health professional.
This year’s theme, “Achieving Health Equity and Health Justice,” will have attendees engage in workshops that discuss and promote best health care practices for various identities within the LGBTQ population.
She said workshops aim to advocate for health equity and eliminate disparity amongst disadvantaged groups. She hoped the conference would provide a platform for health care professionals and social service agencies to share tools, resources, and networking opportunities for the community. Awards and recognition for outstanding leadership within the LGBTQ community and the Let’s Get Better Together organization are also distributed during the conference.
Castro, who was the recipient of an award the previous year, discussed the importance of LGBTQ health equity.
“Health equity and health justice simply means making sure that each individual — regardless of past experience, walks of life, identity, or challenges — is still entitled to the same rights and same accessibility as everybody else,” Castro said.
Castro cited issues with confidentiality, visitation and making medical decisions on behalf of a partner as hindrances to healthcare equity.
“In some cases, if you are not a legal or biological relative to a partner, you can’t visit them in the hospital, or you don’t have access to health records or certain decision making.” said Castro. “If heterosexual couples are together or married or they share a child, oftentimes there is no question about who’s allowed in the hospital room.”
Let’s Get Better Together partners with a variety of different healthcare organizations that primarily work with or service the LGBTQ community in order to provide resources for attendees, like education on gender identity and sexual orientation.
LGBTQ youth are more than four times as likely to attempt suicide than their peers, according to the Trevor Project’s 2022 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health. The study found that 45% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, including more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth.
“LGBTQ- and gender-affirming health care is suicide prevention,” Castro said. “(It) can make all the difference in showing that somebody deserves and is worthy to live the normal life that everybody wants.”
How to attend the event
Featuring the Champions of Change Advocacy Institute, among other organizations, the conference will be held Wednesday and Thursday, Oct. 18-19. It will be held at Harrah’s Ak-Chin Hotel and Casino in Maricopa.
Tickets for the event are available now on the website, Let’s Get Better Together (letsgetbettertogetheraz.org)