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CDC Denies It Will Remove LGBT Questions


The Williams Institute sounded the alarm that the CDC would scrap an LGBT module from its survey.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention deny that it plans to remove LGBT questions on a federal health survey, despite a report that claimed the opposite.

The Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, released a statement on May 17 accusing the CDC of planning to remove the optional LGBT questions from the Behavior Risk Factor Surveillance System starting in 2019. The decision, they said, was mentioned from stage by a CDC official at a conference in Denver hosted by the American Association for Public Opinion Research.

A CDC spokesperson told the Washington Blade that the BRFSS "has not been finalized" but that it's untrue the LGBT module has been removed.

The CDC added the LGBT module in 2014 as an optional part of the Behavior Risk Factor Surveillance System, which is an annual survey that establishes the health conditions of the American public, as well as the behaviors that put the public’s health at risk. When the option to identity as LGBT on the survey was established, the module became the first data collection on transgender Americans’ health in the country. 

Keith Conron, research director at the Williams Institute, released a statement impressing how useful the LGBT module has been to the transgender community.

“More than two dozen peer-reviewed papers have used BRFSS data to provide information about LGBT adults since the optional SOGI module was added in 2014,” Conron said. “Approximately 10 of those feature findings [have been] on transgender adults.”

Conron also emphasized the extent to which the module has benefitted other parts of the LGBT community.

“These BRFSS analyses have produced information about the health of LGBT adults across a broad array of issues, including physical and mental health, violence victimization, and disability," said Conron. "They have also provided information about the prevalence of socioeconomic and behavioral causes of chronic diseases, such as smoking, drinking, diet, activity, and screening. These findings are essential to understanding the unique health needs of the LGBT population and to inform prevention and intervention efforts.”

If the CDC had decided to strike the section, it would be typical of the Trump administration and how it's treated data collection about LGBT people. In 2017, the Department of Health and Human Services revealed that it would remove the option to declare one’s identity as LGBT on the National Survey of Older Americans Act Participants. The backlash, led by groups for LGBT elders such as SAGE, resulted in HHS restoring the question on sexual orientation — but not the question about gender identity.

President Trump's appointment of Dr. Robert Redfield as head of the CDC has it under renewed focus. Redfield is an HIV researcher, and during the height of the AIDS crisis he served at Walter Reed Medical Institute, where Redfield effectively quarantined HIV-positive soldiers and banned any new recruit who tested positive. He also worked with an agency that claimed AIDS is a punishment by God of homosexuals. The Christian organization Americans for a Sound AIDS/HIV Policy, headed by W. Shepherd Smith Jr., espouses the belief that AIDS is “God’s judgement” against homosexuals.

His defenders say Redfield’s beliefs were not radical for the time. Redfield served on the board for the same agency, renamed the Children’s AIDS Fund, until April.

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