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LGBTQ Health

Risk and Harm Reduction for LGBTQ People

At Temple, we take a risk and harm reduction approach with our patients — no judgments, just good healthcare. Risk and harm reduction operates on a set of simple ideas we apply to health screening and medical care for our patients who identify as LGBTQ. Our goal is to help you reduce negative health consequences on all counts.

What Risk and Harm Reduction Means

Part of risk and harm reduction is being honest with patients about any dangers to their physical or mental health. And, at Temple, we do that without judgment. Our doctors and staff address the following topics because we want to help you be safe and happy, and have the tools available to keep you healthy.

There are 3 components of risk and harm reduction and prevention.

Jump to a topic:

  1. Substance Use or Misuse 
  2. Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) 
  3. Health Screenings, Cancer Awareness and Vaccines 

Substance Use or Misuse

At Temple, we understand drug use happens across all walks of life. We also understand that combined drug use and sex happens across all walks of life. Some members of the community may call this “party and play,” or sometimes just PnP.

Your medical team realizes there are sometimes safer or more responsible ways to take drugs. Temple is here to talk with you about those alternatives. Our doctors understand that staying away from drugs 100% of the time does not necessarily work for some adults in the community.

If you’re seeking support for use or misuse, we believe it’s our job to empower you, because there’s more to you than using drugs.

Sometimes, choices related to drug use (and sexual activity) are rooted in where you come from, who you are as a person, and what you and your friends or peers find acceptable. And we recognize that using drugs is sometimes not a choice at all. You may be coerced into using drugs, or feel like using is the safer choice.

Programs We Offer for Substance Use or Misuse

Our doctors and staff work with you to take care of your health and to reduce and prevent the risk associated with the use or misuse of substances. Here's a list of programs that we offer to help you:

  • Smoking Cessation – Lung and other cancers may often be primary health concerns for patients who identify as LGBTQ.
  • Opioid Misuse – Struggling with misuse of prescription medications, such as OxyContin, Xanax and others, can lead to overdose and other complications.
  • Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) — This is recommended for patients who may need certain prescriptions to end the misuse of certain substances. Talk to your doctor if you feel this is the best way to end misuse.

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Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)

At Temple, we want you to feel safe. Regardless of how you identify, who you have sex with or how you do it, you can talk to us honestly. Speaking openly with your doctor is important so you can get the right screenings at the right times.

Depending on who you have sex with and how, your doctor might recommend HIV screening at different intervals. This could be once a year, twice a year, or once every 3 months depending on what you and your medical team decide is best for your needs. You may need more frequent tests depending on your habits and activities.

Your doctor will also recommend tests for syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia and other infections. When you come in for these tests, your doctor will also test for HPV (human papillomavirus). It’s important to test for HPV, as it can cause cancers of the head, throat, neck and cervix. Your doctor may also recommend anal pap smear tests.

STI Prevention and Treatment

Yes, you’re more than your sexual identity. But it’s important that your doctor and medical team know so we can better serve you. Regular testing for STIs is always important.

Your doctor may also recommend you go on PrEP, a drug proven to reduce the risk of HIV transmission by up to 99%. Your doctor may place you on certain antibiotics to prevent infections such as syphilis, chlamydia or gonorrhea. 

Your healthcare team will provide prevention and treatment for:

  • HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) — Your medical team will care for you with HIV management through medication should you test positive.
  • PrEP, or Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis — This is a highly effective drug if taken before exposure to HIV through sexual intercourse or using shared needles for drug use.
  • PEP, or post-exposure prophylaxis — This is an emergency medication for people who may have been exposed to HIV through sexual intercourse or using shared needles for drug use.
  • Sexually transmitted infections — Your doctor may prescribe you preventive antibiotics if you’re at risk and will treat you should you test positive.

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Health Screenings, Cancer Awareness and Vaccines

Your Temple doctor is not here to cure or treat only the medical conditions you may have already developed. We want to address aspects of your health and lifestyle before they become a health issue.

People who identify as LGBTQ may be more at risk for developing certain kinds of cancers. Our doctors understand this and will assess each person on an individual level to recommend screenings. Your doctor and medical team will test and take care of you in a way that will reduce risks and prevent future harm or health concerns.

Some medical screenings or tests will “catch” certain illnesses, such as cancer, in the beginning stages when there is a better chance of recovery.

Screenings for HPV-Related Cancer

It’s not only sexually transmitted infections that can damage your health. Cancers, which you may not realize, can develop through sex. For instance, human papillomavirus (HPV) can cause genital warts. While that can be treated by your doctor, it can cause cancer later on.

We will check for:

If you have, or are at risk for, any of these cancers, your doctors will guide you from detection through treatment. Other specialists will provide you further medical assistance. Detecting cancer early means a higher ability to treat, send into remission or cure.

Vaccines for Important Protection

Vaccines provide important protection for your health as well as for your partner and loved ones. Talk with your doctor about any of these recommended vaccines:

HPV Vaccine

The HPV vaccine is a relatively new preventive treatment. It was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2009.

Initially, it was approved only for adolescents. But that has changed, making many more patients eligible for the vaccine.

Who can or should get the HPV vaccine:

  • Adolescents and children as early as age 9. If you’re a parent, talk to your child’s pediatrician.
  • Sexually active patients in their 20s and through their mid-40s.
Hepatitis A Vaccine

Hepatitis A is a contagious virus that typically spreads through contaminated food or water, but it can also spread through close contact with an infected person. If you test positive for Hepatitis A, you may receive a vaccine and treatment.

Hepatitis B Vaccine

Hepatitis B is a virus that is contagious through exposure to the blood or semen of an infected person. If you test positive for Hepatitis B, you may receive a vaccine and treatment.

Pneumococcal Vaccine

This vaccine is for pneumonia and pneumococcal diseases. Pneumonia, if untreated, can lead to severe illness. It’s especially important to have the vaccine if you are HIV-positive, since pneumonia can severely compromise your health.

COVID-19 Vaccine

COVID-19 has become a major concern among adults, especially older patients. There are COVID vaccines currently available that have been FDA approved. Talk with your doctor if you have any concerns with getting the vaccine once you're eligible.

With other doctors or hospitals, you may have felt some discrimination or discomfort about disclosing being LGBTQ. But at Temple Health, we're committed to ensuring you receive the treatment you need — without fear. In fact, your doctors are recognized as leaders providing healthcare to LGBTQ Philadelphians.

Find an LGBTQ-affirming doctor today. Request an appointment or call 800-TEMPLE-MED (800-836-7536).