It shouldn’t be that hard to find a healthcare professional who’s up to date and sensitive to the specific needs of the LGBTQ and HIV-positive communities. Yet, even in 2019, it is.
In some smaller suburbs, it’s nearly impossible to find a doctor who is knowledgeable about issues like PrEP, hormone replacement therapy, anal pap smears, and other queer healthcare requirements. In fact, most HIV-positive individuals have to specifically see an infectious disease specialist when, in theory, their primary care physician should know how to help them achieve and sustain an undetectable viral load.
These days, HIV is a manageable condition, similar to diabetes. It shouldn’t be the responsibility of HIV-positive and/or queer people to find a doctor adept at treating them. That’s why the #WeNeedAButton campaign is putting the responsibility on doctors-patient matching sites.
I’ve teamed up with DatingPostives.com, a dating site for poz people and Waxoh.com, a sex-positive digital magazine. DatingPositives embraces those managing all STIs, and takes their issues very seriously. Given that the LGBTQ community often overlaps with this community, partnering with DatingPositives.com was the perfect match — so to speak.
Together, we have a mission to make sure to better our community’s healthcare experience and minimize stigmatization. Our simple solution? A single button to identify queer-friendly doctors.
Instead of signing a petition, we’re asking everyone who is with us — members of the queer community, HIV-positive community, and allies — to post a "belfie," or butt selfie in solidarity, using the hashtag #WeNeedAButton.
The #WeNeedAButton hashtag campaign launched on June 25, just in time for World Pride. All you nee We will continue till we’ve successfully converted major patient matching sites, like ZocDoc, Yelp, and HealthGrades to include a button, or filter, that lets queer and poz people know that a provider is queer-friendly.
That way, when you see a doctor you don’t have to be worried that they won’t believe you when you say you’re bisexual, or even more annoying, suggest you “pick a side,” which is something that happens frequently. The doctor will know what to do if for some reason, they notice that your viral load has become detectable. They also won’t mislabel your pronouns. Neither will they judge you for not wearing condoms or sleeping with multiple strangers.
In short, they’ll get you, and they’ll treat you with the respect that you — and for that matter any patient — deserves.
Take my friend Isaac, 21, who came out as trans and started transitioning to a man while he was in his late teens. When he brought up the idea of starting PrEP once he had begun sleeping with gay men, the doctor refused to prescribe him Truvada since she didn’t see trans men as being a high risk group. The doctor wrongfully believed that cisgender gay men wouldn’t sleep with a trans man, which simply isn’t true. Roughly a year later, Isaac contracted HIV.
If the doctor had prescribed PrEP like Isaac requested, “I likely wouldn’t have gotten HIV, since I would have been on PrEP for that whole year,” Isaac tells Plus.
He’s not alone, and I’ve heard many stories working with DatingPositives.com. Chris, 45, was diagnosed with HIV in 2007. The doctor not only shared his test results over the phone, which isn’t legal, he also provided Chris with zero resources, simply recommending that he “find another doctor.” He didn’t even provide any recommendations for other healthcare professionals.
“He absolutely did not want me as a patient,” Chris recalls. “I felt very discriminated against. Fortunately, my roommate at the time knew a great doctor at Fenway [Health], an HIV-specialist and a gay man, who took me on as a patient when he heard my experience with my previous doctor.”
Chris says he was lucky that he contracted HIV in his 30s, when he was knowledgeable about the virus and also had numerous gay friends and support systems. But what if Chris wasn’t yet out when he contracted HIV and didn’t know what to do? What if he didn’t have a support group? What if his friend didn’t know of a gay, HIV specialist who luckily had an open spot for a new patient?
The time for change is now. Join me, DatingPositives.com, and hundreds of others in sharing our booties! If we can get tens of thousands of folks to share their medical horror stories and butts, I think the campaign will make a massive impact. The campaign will not only force patient matching sites to create this filter, but also let healthcare professionals know that they need to step up their game. The level of care queer and positive folks receive is often horrendous, and we’re no longer going to accept it.
ZACHARY ZANE is a writer focusing on (bi)sexuality, gender, dating, and relationships. Follow him on Twitter @ZacharyZane.