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Half of GPs unaware of patients' sexuality

Fri 2 Oct 2015 In: New Zealand Daily News View at Wayback View at NDHA

New research shows half of New Zealand GPs may be unaware of their patients sexuality. A study from the University of Auckland found only half of all gay and bisexual men surveyed believe their GP was aware of their sexuality. Nearly a third of men say that their GP does not know and a further 17 percent say they are unsure. Younger men, those who identify as bisexual, who were of an Asian or other non-European/Maori/Pacific ethnicity, or who reported fewer recent same-sex partnerships were among those who were less likely to be honest about their sexuality with their GP. The research was led by Adrian Ludlam and Dr Peter Saxton from the University of Auckland’s Gay Men’s Sexual Health research group, with Associate Professor Nigel Dickson from the University of Otago and Tony Hughes from the NZAF.“This low level of awareness means that many gay and bisexual men are likely not being offered relevant care, such as HIV and STI tests, vaccination and advice about safe sex by their GP,” says Ludlam. “These findings are timely as new HIV diagnoses among gay and bisexual men in New Zealand are at an all-time high and there are also rises in sexually transmitted infections.” The findings were recently published in the Journal of Primary Health Care and presented at the World STI and HIV Congress in Brisbane in September.The data was collected in a community and internet study of 3168 gay and bisexual men conducted in 2014. “Gay and bisexual men have greater needs around HIV, sexual health and vaccination against human papillomavirus (HPV) than other men” says Ludlam, adding that “GPs play a critical role in addressing these needs but because sexuality is an invisible trait, a GP must ask their patient or the patient has to feel comfortable disclosing this information.” “We were interested in the quality of care in general practice for gay and bisexual men,” says Saxton.“For example, anti-discrimination and marriage equality in New Zealand has been achieved in law, but as yet there’s been no reduction in sexual health inequalities. Inclusivity needs to flow right through society especially in health care, not merely written in ink.” “The implication of such low levels of awareness is that many gay and bisexual men aren’t being asked or don't feel comfortable disclosing their sexuality," says Saxton.“Some possibly anticipate negative reactions or awkwardness.” Saxton says there are a number of ways healthcare professionals can improve care for patients with minority sexual orientations. Sexual orientation as a standard question asked at first consultation, is one of these. He also says clinic’s displaying inclusive material and offering professional training around sexual orientation and gender identity issues would help GP's feel confident and able to provide sensitive and relevant services. According to the AIDS Epidemiology Group data, gay and bisexual men account for approximately 80 percent of HIV infections transmitted in New Zealand, and general practice is the most common site where the diagnosis is made. In addition, in the past five years, 42 percent of HIV infections among gay men have been diagnosed late, that is after the point at which HIV treatments would normally have been initiated, half of which most likely occurred more than four years prior to their diagnosis.    

Credit: Daily News staff

First published: Friday, 2nd October 2015 - 2:35pm

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