CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The Campaign for Southern Equality in partnership with the Western NC Community Health Services released the 2019 Southern LGBTQ Health Survey this month.
The report includes responses from over 5,600 Southern LGBTQ individuals across 13 southern states about their physical and mental health, quality of health care, and experiences with issues like depression and anxiety.
More than half of the respondents said they found it harder to access quality care in the South. Within the LGBTQ community, transgender individuals, people of color, and those with lower incomes reported even higher rates of disparities.
"In the LGBTQ community, the trans population and also those who are gender non-conforming, anyone who is not cis-gender is experiencing greater instances of discrimination within health care," said Chase Glenn, executive director of the Alliance for Full Acceptance (AFFA).
Transgender people and individuals with lower incomes reported high rates of fair or poor physical health and negative experiences.
Over 70% of respondents also said that they delay seeking care because of the cost.
AFFA is a social-justice organization that focuses on achieving equality for the LGBTQ+ community. Last month the group released their own survey, which showed similar findings.
Glenn says a lot of these disparities in quality access come from lack of education. He believes health care providers need to research the special health needs of LGBTQ patients to better answer their questions.
The 2019 Southern survey revealed that 5% of the respondents say they are living with HIV. Those rates are significantly higher among transgender women of color (90.9%) and Black or African American respondents (22%). Southerners living with HIV are more than 15 times the national average.
Kimberly Butler-Willis is the director of the Ryan White Wellness Center, which is part of the Roper St. Francis health system and serves a large LGBTQ+ population. She says more communication is needed between the LGBTQ community and health care providers to fix some of the problems that are happening locally and across the Southern States.
“We need to talk to the thought leaders, rather than walk into a community thinking we have the answers, go because we know they have the answers,” Butler-Willis said. “Use our resources, leverage our strengths, and get them to where they need to be so we can find some common ground.”