Blog Posts Related to the LGBT Community

  • Enhancing Health Care Protections for LGBT Individuals

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted from HHS.gov

    Throughout the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), we operate on the fundamental belief that every American deserves equal opportunity, equal protection, and equal rights under the law. When we are sick or injured, we depend on health care professionals to treat us with competence, compassion, and the understanding that we are protected against mistreatment.

    Discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) individuals harms the health and well-being of LGBT individuals and their families in many ways. Like everyone else, LGBT individuals should receive regular health care when and where they need it, without fear of disclosing their sexual history and gender identity to their health care providers, and with the freedom to involve their partners in their care. But they often cannot do so, or believe they cannot do so, based on the threat of discrimination.

    HHS has in place a matrix of powerful protections to ensure that LGBT individuals have equal access to health care and freedom from discrimination:

    • The Affordable Care Act prevents health insurance companies from raising rates or denying coverage because of a pre-existing condition like HIV/AIDS, cancer, or mental health concernsor because they happen to be LGBT.
    • Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies can no longer impose a lifetime limit on coverage. This is particularly important to HIV/AIDS patients, and anyone else who has a chronic condition.
    • The landmark civil rights provision, Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, prohibits discrimination against individuals based on sex, which includes discrimination based on sex stereotyping and gender identity. While implementing regulations are being drafted, HHS is accepting complaints and enforcing the law.
    • Insurance companies are prohibited from discriminating against individuals on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, including against same-sex spouses with respect to an offer of spousal coverage.

    All of this is good news for the LGBT community, particularly when we consider that prior to the new coverage options provided under the health care law, one in three lower income LGBT adults in our country did not have health insurance. You don’t have to be an expert to figure out what we need to do to get the word out. It’s outreach. It’s education. It’s communication. Information is a powerful tool to equip individuals, friends, family, and community leaders with knowledge to ensure LGBT people have access to quality, affordable health care and freedom from discrimination.

    We hope you will continue to join us in this important work.

    Matthew Heinz is the Director of Provider & LGBT Outreach for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Juliet K. Choi is the Chief of Staff & Senior Advisor, Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

  • Dr. Deborah Birx Sworn In as New U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted from AIDS.gov
     
    Dr. Deborah Birx was sworn in today as the new Ambassador at Large and U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator to lead all U.S. Government international HIV/AIDS efforts. Ambassador Birx now oversees implementation of the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the largest commitment by any nation to combat a single disease in history, as well as all U.S. Government engagement with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
     
    “I am honored and humbled to lead PEPFAR into a brand new chapter to achieve an AIDS-free generation through shared responsibility, accountability, and impact.” said Ambassador Birx.
     
    Ambassador Birx is a renowned medical expert in the field of HIV/AIDS. For over three decades, her career has focused on HIV/AIDS immunology, vaccine research, and global health. Since 2005, she has served as Director of the Division of Global HIV/AIDS at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) leading PEPFAR implementation.
     
    Prior to the CDC, Ambassador Birx, a proud Army veteran, having risen to the rank of Colonel in the US Army, served at the Department of Defense as Director of the U.S. Military HIV Research Program at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. In that role, she led development of the Thai vaccine trial which became the first clinical HIV/AIDS research study to show the potential that a vaccine could protect against HIV. She also served as an Assistant Chief of the Hospital Immunology Service at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
     
    PEPFAR now directly supports 6.7 million people globally on life-saving antiretroviral treatment. In Fiscal Year 2013, PEPFAR also supported HIV testing and counseling for more than 57.7 million people, providing a critical entry point to prevention, treatment, and care. Of those receiving PEPFAR-supported HIV testing and counseling, more than 12.8 million were pregnant women. For the 780,000 of these women who tested positive for HIV, PEPFAR provided antiretroviral medications to prevent mother-to-child transmission of the virus. Due to PEPFAR support, 95 percent of these babies were born HIV-free (including 240,000 that would otherwise have been infected).

  • Dr. Biden Meets with LGBT Americans Benefiting from the Affordable Care Act

    Dr. Jill Biden Meets with Members of the LGBT community about ACA

    Dr. Jill Biden meets with members of the LGBT community who have benefited from the Affordable Care Act in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, March 26, 2014.

    An important deadline is coming up for all Americans, including the LGBT community: March 31 is the end of the open enrollment period for individuals to sign up for health care in the state and federal Marketplaces. If you miss the deadline, you may not be able to get health insurance again until next year.

    The Affordable Care Act has the potential to improve the health and well-being of the LGBT community for generations to come. (Here’s how.) Many LGBT individuals across the country have signed up for coverage — and they’re already seeing the benefits.

  • What They’re Saying: Douglas M. Brooks as the New Director of the Office of National AIDS Policy

    After President Obama announced yesterday that Douglas M. Brooks, MSW, would lead the Office of National AIDS Policy, HIV/AIDS organizations from around the country announced their support. They echoed the President’s words when he said, “Douglas’s policy expertise combined with his extensive experience working in the community makes him uniquely suited to the task of helping to achieve the goal of an AIDS-free generation, which is within our reach.” Brooks, an openly gay African American man living with HIV, is a respected expert in the community whose distinct experiences will help further our goals of achieving an AIDS-free generation and improving the health of people living with HIV in the United States.

    Here’s what some HIV/AIDS organizations said about the President’s announcement:

    amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research (New York, NY)
    “We are eager to see strong leadership carry out the National HIV/AIDS Strategy’s renewed focus on evidence-based policy and effective programming, especially with respect to populations hardest hit by AIDS in America, including gay men and other men who have sex with men, and African American and Latino men and women.”

    San Francisco AIDS Foundation (San Francisco, CA)
    “Douglas is the right person at the right time to step into this role. As new infections increasingly concentrate in the African-American community, and especially among Black gay men, it is more important than ever that our young people see a future for themselves in the face of someone like Douglas so that they can harness their innate resilience to create healthy and successful lives.”

    AIDS United (Washington, DC)
    “We have the opportunity to finally end the epidemic. I’ve been fortunate to work directly with Douglas, and have great confidence that he knows how to convene the right public and private partners to engage in the right conversations that will result in real progress.”

    National Minority AIDS Council (Washington, DC)
    “As the most heavily impacted population in the country, it is critical that Black gay men – especially those living with HIV – are represented at the highest levels of our government’s response to the epidemic.”

    Lifelong AIDS Alliance (Seattle, WA)
    “His tireless work to support the communities most greatly affected by HIV is steeped in compassion and personal commitment supported by epidemiological data. This appointment will help drive our common objective to end AIDS today and subsequently put a dent in HIV incidence within the United States and worldwide.”

    The AIDS Institute (Washington, DC)
    “Achieving these goals in an environment of constrained budget resources and within the changing landscape of the Affordable Care Act provides unique opportunities and challenges. We are confident Brooks possesses the leadership and passion to guide the White House through the next few years as we together aim to fulfill the President’s desire to realize an AIDS-free generation.”

    Gautam Raghavan is Associate Director with the White House Office of Public Engagement.

  • Standing Up for LGBT Rights Around the World

    Vice President Joe Biden gives the keynote address at the Human Rights Campaign gala in Los Angeles, Calif., March 22, 2014.

    Vice President Joe Biden gives the keynote address at the Human Rights Campaign gala in Los Angeles, Calif., March 22, 2014. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)

    “The rights of LGBT people [are] an inseparable part of America’s promotion of human rights around the world,” Vice President Joe Biden declared to a packed audience at the Human Rights Campaign Los Angeles gala on Saturday night.

    In a world where homosexuality is a crime in almost 80 countries — punishable by death in 7 — the Vice President reasserted America’s unwavering commitment to LGBT rights in every corner of the world. “Hate,” he explained, “can never, never be defended because it’s a so-called cultural norm.”

  • Reflecting on India: Challenges and Opportunities for the LGBT Community

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted from Export-Import Bank of the United States.

    After reflecting on my recent trip  to India, I’m reminded that in many countries around the world, members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community continue to face political, social, and cultural hurdles that prevent them from achieving full equality. Some of those challenges cut across borders, while others are shaped in unique ways by the historical and modern  circumstances of each nation. As President and Chairman of the U.S. Export-Import Bank, I have the opportunity to travel  to many of these countries—and I make a point of trying to meet with local LGBT communities to hear directly from them about their challenges, goals, and achievements.
     
    As I often do after these meetings, I’ve reflected many times on the stories I heard from members of the Indian LGBT community, and on the particular challenges they’re facing now. In December 2013, India’s Supreme Court upheld Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, a 150-year-old law that effectively criminalizes homosexuality. This decision was highly controversial and drew significant criticism from a range of sectors, including from the Indian government—and it was a devastating blow to the equality and dignity of gay and lesbian Indians.
     
    I had the opportunity to meet with  some of the leaders in the Indian LGBT community during my visit and discuss some of the challenges confronting them. I gained insight on the lives of LGBT Indians from GaysiFamily, an organization working to create a safe space for LGBT communities and promote awareness of LGBT rights. I also had the chance to meet Prince  Manvendra—an openly gay member of one of India’s royal families—who shared his insights with me on the difficulties of coming out and the obstacles to equality that remain in India.
     
    Despite the challenges and  uncertainties that many LGBT Indians face, there’s reason for hope—and that reason is the courage, passion, and steadfast commitment of LGBT advocates and allies like the individuals I met, as well as organizations in Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, and across the country. From pride parades to Bollywood films, awareness of LGBT issues in India is rising quickly. As long as these advocates and allies continue to work for reform, I remain optimistic that  meaningful progress will soon be within their grasp—and that we in America will do our part to support their courageous work for equality.
     
    Fred P. Hochberg is Chairman and President of the Export-Import Bank of the United States.

  • Making Health Care Coverage More Accessible and Equitable for Same-Sex Couples

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted from the Department of Health and Human Services' health care blog. See the original post here.

    Today, the Department of Health and Human Services took one more step toward making health care coverage more accessible and equitable for married same-sex couples.

    Already, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, more than 4.2 million people have signed up for private health insurance plans through the Health Insurance Marketplace. Marketplace plans cover essential health benefits like emergency services, prescription drugs and mental health and substance use disorder services. And preventive services like flu shots, blood pressure screening and HIV screening are covered at no additional charge.

    Moreover, all health plans sold in the Marketplace have to follow rules that make health care more accessible for everyone. You can’t be denied coverage for a pre-existing condition, like HIV/AIDS or cancer, and you can’t be charged more for being a woman.

    Today, we are clarifying that, starting next year, if an insurance company offers coverage to opposite-sex spouses, it cannot choose to deny that coverage to same-sex spouses. In other words, insurance companies will not be permitted to discriminate against married same-sex couples when offering coverage. This will further enhance access to health care for all Americans, including those with same-sex spouses.

  • Ensuring a “Time to Thrive” for LGBTQ Youth

    Last weekend, the Human Rights Campaign, in partnership with the National Education Association and American Counseling Association, hosted the first-ever “Time to Thrive” conference in Las Vegas, Nevada. The conference brought together hundreds of educators, school administrators, coaches, social workers, mental health providers, and other youth development staff for a conversation about promoting safety, inclusion, and well-being among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth.

    Since taking office, President Obama and his Administration have taken significant steps to advance equality for the LGBT community – including addressing and preventing bullying and harassment of LGBT young people in classrooms and communities around the country. That’s why I was proud to moderate a panel discussion with colleagues from the Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, and Agriculture to highlight some of the bullying prevention and youth empowerment resources available across the federal government.

    View video footage of the panel discussion, including a special video message from Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to President Obama.

    If you want to learn more, check out these resources:

    White House Resources

    StopBullying.gov

    U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

    U.S. Department of Education

    U.S. Department of Justice

    U.S. Department of Agriculture

    Gautam Raghavan is an Advisor in the White House Office of Public Engagement.