As part of #LBWomensHealth17, the team at the LGBT Foundation want to talk to you about Hepatitis B.
Visiting the doctors is awkward. It often takes a lot of effort and emotional strength to ask for what we need. That’s only amplified when those services seem to question our very identities. As our report showed, lesbian and bisexual (LB) women still face homophobia, biphobia and transphobia when they access health services. And whilst we’ll continue to campaign for better awareness and understanding from health practitioners, we need to be able to access services now.
Hepatitis B is on the rise in the LGBTQ community, and it can be easily avoided1. Three vaccines, taken within 4 to 6 months, provides protection from what can be a pretty nasty infection. The vaccine is free for what the NHS identifies as ‘at-risk’ groups, you can see what these groups are on the NHS website: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/vaccinations/Pages/hepatitis-b-vaccine.aspx
Some of these at-risk groups may involve LB women and particularly LB trans women. The important thing is that if you think you might be at risk, you have the right to access the vaccine, for free. Most GPs should provide the vaccine if you mention it to them. However, as the report showed, GPs will often make assumptions about your identity and sex life and this could affect whether or not they think you are eligible for the vaccine. This is often the case for lesbian, bisexual and trans women, and particularly trans L or B women!
The good news if you do find that your GP is being resistant to you accessing the vaccine but you feel you are at risk, is that there are other options. It’s not always easy to change surgeries, depending on where you live, though you can request another GP from the same practice. What’s more, there are independent clinics that provide the vaccination. If for example you are struggling with transphobia around sexual health services, CliniQ in Soho, London, is a trans-friendly clinic where staff are incredibly well-trained to understand trans peoples’ needs. Trans-specific clinics also exist in Brighton and Birmingham.
If you want any help finding supportive GPs, or if you want help challenging your GP if they’re refusing you the vaccine, get in touch, and we’ll do our best to help.
Try calling the LGBT Foundation helpline on 0161 330 3030 or check out our website at www.lgbt.foundation