BEIRUT: Discrimination against the LGBT community is a problem in many societies where anyone who is different is the subject of negative treatment.
The World Health Organization, the Lebanese Psychiatrist Society, and the Lebanese Psychological Association, however, have stated that homosexuality is not an illness. Yet, in Lebanese society most homosexuals are held at arms-length among their families, at their workplace, at school, in the media, and most importantly in the health care system.
LebMASH, the Lebanese Medical Association for Sexual Health, founded in 2012, has been fighting for the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) community rights by spreading awareness as they go along through a suppressed and judgmental society.
"We thrive to fill the needs to increase research conducted in Lebanon on sexual health and LGBT health, education and training of health care providers and students in the different health care professions, and raise awareness among the public and counter prevalent myths and misconceptions," explains Dr. Omar Fattal, board member and previous president of LebMASH.
The group is organizing an LGBT health week from March 11-17, launching at University of Saint Joseph's medical campus (USJ), and then moving to Smallville Hotel and the American University of Beirut. They are seeking to educate a diverse group of people from medical and media backgrounds, to the unaware public, along with workshops for health-care students.
"This is very tricky since these groups of people usually have different levels of understanding of health issues and, at times, use a different language," says Dr. Fattal.
He added, "We needed a slogan for the campaign that was easily understood by someone who does not have a background in health care but that is also scientifically accurate so it can be taken seriously by healthcare professionals. That's why we chose: marginalization is bad for health."
The primary message behind this awareness campaign is to showcase how damaging discrimination can be to one's health, especially when it comes to "HIV, mental health, and access to health care services."
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