To End HIV, We Need to Start with Ending LGBTQIA Stigma

In very few words, Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito broadsided LGBTQIA rights, yet again.

They contend that the Supreme Court wrongly arrived at their decision in the hallmark LGBTQIA ruling in our country’s history, Obergefell v. Hodges. Make no mistake, this is the first salvo in the latest chapter of a never-ending assault on LGBTQIA rights—fueled by biases, LGBTQIA stigma, and prejudice toward the community.

Amidst this attack, and in observance of National Coming Out Day, which was on October 11, it is vital that we renew our focus on the rights and health care issues of more than 180,000 Missourians who are members of the LGBTQIA community.

Our Commitment to Ending LGBTQIA Stigma and Promoting Equity

To ensure our LGBTQIA friends, family members, coworkers, and neighbors can achieve equality, it’s critical that we eliminate barriers to full participation in our communities in all their forms. More than 50 years after Stonewall, the rights of LGBTQIA individuals are still under attack. We all need to act as individuals, organizations, and governments to secure the rights that our LGBTQIA family members and friends rely on for their very lives.

There can be no social justice until we can be guaranteed that health care is available to everyone. – Dr. Angela Davis

As one of the country’s premier providers of HIV prevention and health services for thousands of LGBTQIA people, Vivent Health sees firsthand the affirmation of all the studies on the disparity in health outcomes because of stigma and discrimination. LGBTQIA individuals are far more likely to have poor health, including higher rates of many types of cancer, HPV infection, obesity, and HIV/AIDS. Mental health issues are also much greater in this community, including suicide, mood and eating disorders, and alcohol, tobacco and substance use and abuse.

The causes of these deadly disparities are far too common: lack of health insurance, lack of access to medications, denial of health care by providers, and lack of education due to stigma, discrimination, and institutional biases. Vivent Health will continue to aggressively provide access to the health care and social services the people we serve rely on to thrive. But these times call on us to go even further—we need our government leaders to fight for support as well.

Vivent Health is Committed to Supporting MONA

To this end, Vivent Health is proudly committed to this work through the introduction of our new anti-stigma initiative and announcing our full support for the adoption of the Missouri Non-Discrimination Act (MONA). MONA is well past due as it protects Missourians from discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. Unfortunately, this legislation has languished for more than two decades in the statehouse and must be a priority in the upcoming session.

Adoption of the Missouri Non-Discrimination Act—introduced by Greg Razer (D-Kansas City) and Rep. Tom Hannegan (R-St. Charles) last session and supported vociferously on the floor by Rep. Mike Stephens (R- Bolivar)—is a strong bi-partisan start to addressing stigma and discrimination and helping to overcome health disparities for the LGBTQIA community. The legislation provides protections for the community in employment, housing, public accommodations, and other critical areas.

Vivent Health is launching its own plan to fight the HIV stigma and address LGBTQIA disparities, including enhanced advocacy in support of LGBTQIA equality at all levels of government, and will further educate staff and the community, promoting culturally competent care and investing in LGBTQIA health strategies.

This is a critical juncture in the fight for equity. The time is now for everyone to join in advancing equality for all members of our community.