On the 31st May, 2014, the Lebanese Medical Association for Sexual Health (LebMASH) held a 5-session medical conference on health needs of LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) individuals in Lebanon, in the West Hall of the American University of Beirut (AUB). The day commenced with an introduction by Dr. Faysal El-Kak, a senior lecturer at the Faculty of Health Sciences at AUB. Drs. Hasan Abdessamad, founder and current president of LebMASH, and Omar Fattal, co-founder and executive board member of LebMASH, presented on the topic. Dr. Nesrine Rizk, AUB instructor of infectious diseases, gave an elaborate talk on sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). The session lasted throughout most of the day and was followed by a Q&A session with strong interaction from the audience.
Dr. El Kak spoke about the need for such seminars, discussing how “no healthcare is complete without healthcare for all people, based in human rights” and that these seminars go a long way to helping people understand homosexuality and not view it simply in the light of the myths surrounding it.
Then, Dr. Fattal presented the same talk that he had given at Université Saint Joseph the previous week, which discussed the history of, and perceptions towards homosexuality.
Focusing on the difference between attraction, behaviour and identity, he underlined that healthcare providers must not jump to making assumptions, without focusing on each area of the patient’s sexuality. However, he stressed that questions about sexuality and sexual health are of the utmost importance.
Dr. Abdessamad discussed the health of lesbian patients (and you can watch his talk with Arabic subtitles on LebMASH’s YouTube channel). Briefly, he underlined specific challenges faced by Lesbian patients, such as access to care. He stressed that in an ideal world there would be no need to discuss lesbian health as a separate topic since physicians should provide care to all patients equally, regardless of their sexual orientation. However, we do not live in an ideal world. He elaborated on how Lesbian and bisexual women’s health differs from that of heterosexual women, such as an increase in heart disease, breast cancer, substance abuse or obesity among others. This difference is not based in intrinsic or biological factors but rather extrinsic ones due to social and institutional discrimination.
Dr. Nesrine Rizk took the attendees through the A to Z of STDs, showing pictures of what to look for and explaining the symptoms and likelihood of sexually transmitted diseases amongst various different social groups.
Finally, Dr. Fattal returned to the stage where he discussed barriers to care faced by LGBT patients and suggested various ways by which healthcare providers can improve LGBT patients’ experience when they seek medical care. For instance, he spoke at length on the need for an inclusive language and a welcoming and relaxed body language.
Dr. Nesrine Rizk discussing the various STIs which doctors must watch out for, focusing on the specific threats facing the LGBT community.
LebMASH would like to thank the Continuing Medical Education (CME) Office at AUB who helped organise the event and hosted us within the university.