‘It does happen in Utah’: Discrimination, mistreatment fears cause LGBTQ persons to avoid the doctor

Local News

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – A Utah man (who chose to remain anonymous) claims his doctor made reckless assumptions about his health based on his sexuality. 

“I had gone in to see him after just vaguely not feeling well after doing a month of international travel,” the man told ABC4 News. “All I had was a sore throat and was just kind of tired.”

“He said ‘Oh, you have AIDS,'” the man claimed. “I go to check out at the front desk…the receptionist had taken documents from the doctor, and says ‘the doctor says you have AIDS,’ to a waiting room full of people,” he said. The man did not have HIV or AIDS, but says he was embarrassed by the interaction. 

“I haven’t had a regular doctor since,” he said. 

The man told ABC4 News his physician never even inquired about sexual activity before making the assumption. 

His story may sound extreme, but statistics show a significant number of LGBTQ+ Americans (18%) avoid seeking medical care for fear of reckless assumptions, mistreatment or discrimination. It’s a statistic that concerns some local Utah doctors, including Dr. Bernadette Kiraly, physician with the University of Utah Dept. of Family and Preventive Medicine. 

“It does happen in Utah,” said Kiraly. “I have had patients tell me in other practices that they have experienced discrimination,” she said. 

“The biggest area that we see that around is transgender care,” said Kiraly, with doctors “not being familiar with the hormones…and being intimidated, saying ‘Well, I can’t help you.'”

There have been positive cases, though. In a recent interview with ABC4 News, Andy Winder, a transgender man, said there was a very trans-friendly doctor in Provo who helped him through hormone therapy during his transition. 

Still, Kiraly believes many doctors may be well-intentioned, though uninformed about unique health issues facing LGBTQ+ individuals. 

“What we would like to see is [a physician saying] ‘I know how to do this, I know how to help you,’ or if not, ‘I know who does…let me help you get set up with a doctor who can help you,'” Kiraly said. 

That’s why she and other physicians in Utah are organizing the 1st annual Annual HIV Prevention in Primary Care Conference June 14-15. They are inviting physicians to become more educated on how to better treat those at risk of HIV. 

The conference is a first step to a better-informed medical community in Utah. 

“There are a lot of situations where physicians have to put aside their judgments…their personal views and provide humanistic care,” said Kiraly. 

Kiraly also pointed out resources for LGBTQ individuals that will point them to quality care. They can be found on QPages and at the website for the Utah Pride Center
 

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