The Daily Tar Heel

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Wednesday December 7th

LGBTQ Health Awareness Week educates UNC on health disparities in the community

These events included a speaker series and an LGBTQ health awareness table setup in the Michael Hooker Research Center Atrium.

Dirk Davis, president of the organization and a graduate student in the Department of Health Behavior at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, said they are working on expanding the role of their group.

“One of the things we’re really hoping to do is not only to kind of generate awareness within the UNC community on issues relating to LGBTQ health, but also to promote and encourage research within these communities,” he said.

Sophomore business and Asian studies major Betty Shaqiran said LGBTQ Health Awareness Week is important because everyone deserves equal access to proper health care.

“I know the LGBTQ community sometimes may be exposed to more amounts of stress — there’s a higher level of mental illness risk because of society in general — so because of that I feel like health access, especially mental health access and support, is important for these LGBTQ communities whether they’re students, adults, young adults or anyone in general,” she said.

One of the events offered was a lecture on “HIV disparities among gay, bisexual, non-identifying men and Careers in LGBTQ Health Research” given by associate professor of medicine Lisa Hightow-Weidman. The lecture discussed how the HIV epidemic affects some members of the LGBTQ community in particular.

Hightow-Weidman said it is important for students and the public to be informed on the health disparities the LGBTQ community faces.

“I think that anytime that we can actually put a focus and any awareness on issues that impact the LGBTQ community, it’s critically important,” she said. “And I think often we’re a group that is marginalized, and to focus on health, it encompasses all things from physical health, mental health, spiritual health — it is important to recognize the things that are working for the community but also the places where we need to focus attention,” she said

Although HIV is a big issue in the LGBTQ community, Davis said it is important to realize the health disparity in the LGBTQ community expands beyond physical ailments.

“We’re really hoping to let the Carolina community know that these issues exist and that we should as an institution kind of really work to become leaders in not only studying, but also implementing better health for LGBTQ communities.”


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