The right to health is fundamental to our human rights and encompasses a broad definition of physical health and (mental) wellbeing. Governments of all nations have an obligation to fulfil this right for all people, without discrimination of any kind. However, for multiple reasons, social minorities and marginalized groups, whether women, sexual and gender minorities, people living with disabilities, rural communities, the poor, the elderly, to name a few, all experience additional barriers to accessing health care, which impact their health outcomes.
LGBTI – Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex – is an umbrella term used to refer to many diverse groups based on people’s sexual orientation, gender expression and gender identity. LGBTI individuals often face difficulties to access medical services and experience high rates of physical and mental health issues, as well as intersections with their gender, age, race, socioeconomic status etc. which may further drive ill health or exclusion. The term ‘LGBTI health’ is increasingly used to address these challenges and disparities, yet there is no broadly agreed concept of what LGBTI health is. Although the fact that LGBTI individuals face challenges accessing health services is fairly well established, little is known about the concept of LGBTI health itself. Nonetheless, there is growing evidence to support the idea that LGBTI people face unique health risks and global health burden, ranging from poor overall health status to heightened incidence of specific health conditions.
This paper explores the concepts and dimensions of LGBTI health in order to present an understanding of LGBTI health, the risks and disparities that LGBTI people face and associated health needs. The focus is on the health risks and needs of LGBTI – as a highly heterogeneous group of varying sexual and gender identities with diverse health needs – both independently and in relation to the health of the general population.