“Staying healthy starts with telling your doctor EVERYTHING. That includes discussing your sex life and drug use.” So states the “Bare It All” awareness campaign launched by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. At the same time, the city revealed its first-ever LGBTQ Health Care Bill of Rights, which details 10 protections New Yorkers are entitled to.
Both were launched in June, which is Pride month. The “Bare It All” campaign appears on bus stops, subways and online, in both English and Spanish. It also features Demetre Daskalakis, MD, deputy commissioner for the city’s Division of Disease Control. The self-described “queer health warrior” has been on the forefront of HIV care and prevention in the city and was the first U.S. public health official who, in August 2016, endorsed a consensus statement stating that when a person living with HIV has maintained an undetectable viral load for at least six months, the risk of transmission of the virus is negligible.
On its website, the health department spells out four tips for talking with your doctor:
Tell your doctor which name and pronoun they should use throughout your care. Even if they must use the name and gender marker on your insurance card for billing, the doctor and other staff must address you with your preferred name and pronoun.
Be honest about the kinds of sex you have, the gender(s) of your partners, and your typical safer-sex practices.
Tell your doctors about your sexual history, even if they don’t bring up the topic.
Be honest about your drug, tobacco and alcohol use. You and your doctor can use this information to keep you safe and reduce your risks.
In a separate health department press release, Daskalakis recalled that even he had to search for a doctor with whom he felt confident sharing his personal details. “My care has become better and more complete now that I have a doctor with an awareness of who I am and how I can achieve my best possible health,” he said. “Silence and fear should not be the reason that people get sick.”
“Experience tells us that silence equals death,” added New York City Council Member Corey Johnson, who is chair of the Committee on Health and is also HIV positive. “On Pride month, it is vital that we keep HIV/AIDS in the public consciousness. Generations before us took to the streets to win us the progress we have achieved and we owe it to those pioneers to continue the fight. I applaud Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett and the Health Department for reminding all of us that we are our own best advocates.”
To help residents better advocate for themselves, the city’s LGBTQ Health Care Bill of Rights reminds New Yorkers that they have a right to:
- Be treated with dignity, respect and professionalism by all providers and all staff.
- Receive compassionate, judgment-free and comprehensive care that is mindful of your sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.
- Respectful discussions with providers about your health and health care needs, including your sexual history and current sex life.
- Have your gender identity and gender expression recognized, affirmed, documented and accommodated.
- Clear explanations of requests for your health information.
- Clear explanations of all medical procedures and risks, and the right to choose or refuse any treatment.
- Access health insurance coverage and benefits without discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.
- Choose who will make medical decisions for you if you are unable. If you are a minor, you have the right to have your voice heard and best interests included in these decisions.
- Decide who may and may not visit you if you are admitted to a health care facility.
- Privacy and confidentiality.
You can download a wallet-size PDF of the Bill of Rights here.