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Training on community-based HIV screening held for Deaf community in Mnl

To empower members of the Deaf community in the Philippines to start helping other Deaf Filipinos know their HIV status, and thereby – if they tested HIV-positive – access available treatment, care and support, a training on community-based HIV screening was held for Deaf community members in Manila.

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To help empower members of the Deaf community in the Philippines to start helping other Deaf Filipinos know their HIV status, and thereby – if they tested HIV-positive – access available treatment, care and support, a training on community-based HIV screening was held for Deaf community members in Manila.

The training is actually one in three that will be provided by a project by the Bahaghari Center for Research, Education an Advocacy, Inc. (Bahaghari Center), backed by collaboration between Youth LEAD and Y-PEER (Asia Pacific Center), which eyed to address Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR)needs of Young Key Populations (YKPs) In Asia and the Pacific.

Disney Aguila, who heads the project, and is the concurrent president of Pinoy Deaf Rainbow, is first to admit that “problems regarding access to HIV-related services (particularly in this case) by Deaf Filipinos remain numerous.” This is why, for Aguila, “every effort to immediately help deal with these issues count.”

These challenges are multi-pronged, yet interconnected.

On the side of the Deaf Filipinos:

1) Knowledge about HIV remains low.

In 2012, Michael David C. Tan – publishing editor of Outrage Magazine, the only LGBTQI publication in the Philippines, and head of Bahaghari Center – conducted “Talk to the Hand”, the first-of-its-kind study that looked at the knowledge, attitudes and related practices of Deaf LGBT Filipinos on HIV and AIDS. The study had numerous disturbing findings.
To start, majority of the respondents (33 or 54.1%) were within the 19-24 age range at the time of the study, followed by those who are over 25 (21 or 34.3%).

Most of them (53 of 61 Deaf respondents) had sex before they reached 18, the legal age of consent in the Philippines. Many (36.1%) of them also had numerous sexual partners, with some respondents having as many as 20 sex partners in a month.

Only 21 (34.4%) use condoms, and – worryingly – even among those who used condoms, 12 (19.7%) had condom breakage during sex because of improper use.

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Perhaps the unsafe sexual practice should not be surprising, considering that not even half (29, 47.5%) of the respondents heard of HIV and AIDS, with even less that number (23, 37.7%) knowing someone who died of HIV or AIDS-related complications. And with not even half of the total respondents (29) familiar with HIV and AIDS, not surprisingly, only 19 (31.1%) consider HIV and AIDS as serious, with more of them considering HIV and AIDS as not serious (20, 32.8%) or maybe serious (22, 36.1%).

The study also noted that the level of general knowledge about HIV and AIDS is low, with 40 (65.6%) of them falling in this category. Only about 1/5 of them (12, 19.7%) had high level of knowledge about HIV and AIDS. Even fewer (9, 14.8%) may be classified as having moderate knowledge level.

2) Continuing neglect of inclusion of Deaf community members in HIV-related discussions.

For instance, there may have been HIV-related projects including Deaf Filipinos in the past, but these have been very limited to Deaf LGBTQI people.

It is worth noting that this issue is not limited ONLY to the LGBTQIA members of the Deaf community. This issue also affects the SRHR of the Deaf community, as a whole.

For the World Health Organization (WHO), health is a “state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Specific to reproductive health, WHO stresses that it “implies that people are able to have a responsible, satisfying and safer sex life and that they have the capability to reproduce and the freedom to decide if, when and how often to do so.”

It is nonetheless unfortunate that various studies – including Tan’s – highlight how the Deaf community continues to be left behind because they are not able to access safe, effective, affordable and acceptable methods of fertility regulation/s of their choice.

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For instance, a study carried out by Deafax (EARS Campaign, 2012) revealed “higher than average levels of STIs, pregnancy and inappropriate behavior within the Deaf community.” This study specifically showed that: 35% of Deaf people did not receive any sex education at school; 65% said that sex education was inaccessible; and 36% learned through direct sexual experience.”

Dealing with SRHR vis-à-vis HIV is obviously just as tricky in the Philippines.

From January 1984 to July 2018, sexual contact among men who have sex with men (MSM) was the predominant (84%, 44,929) mode of transmission among males. Just as that moniker suggests, many of these MSM are not necessarily gay/homosexual, but also engage in sex with opposite sex partners.

This is connected to the population of those most vulnerable to risks associated with sexual activity getting younger, including HIV. But while this has been noted in the Hearing population, the Deaf community is largely ignored, with no existing data on HIV prevalence among them.

In fact, also from January 1984 to July 2018, 16,074 (28%) of the reported cases were 15-24 years old; and broken down, 1,813 were infected through male-female sex, 9,031 from male-male sex, and 4,662 from sex with both males and females.

This means that so long as the HIV infection rate among MSM increases, so do the risk for infection among women.

As it is, the number of diagnosed HIV infections among females in the Philippines has already increased. Females diagnosed with HIV from January to July 2018 (362) was almost three times the number of diagnosed cases compared to the same period of 2013 (126). Ninety-three percent (3,426) of all female cases were in the reproductive age group (15-49 years old) at the time of diagnosis.

With the dearth – if not complete absence – of information for the Deaf community in the Philippines about HIV, Deaf Filipinos (irrespective of their SOGIE) continue not to be informed of and have access to safe, effective, affordable and acceptable methods of birth control; as well as appropriate health care services of sexual, reproductive medicine and implementation of health education program.

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3) Lack of HIV-related materials in Filipino Sign Language (FSL).

According to Aguila, still many people – including service providers – do not know that the Deaf community has its own language (with its own grammar and syntax). And so HIV-related materials are often produced with the assumption that “everyone can already immediately understand them, which is not necessarily true.”

Aguila recommends the development and production of materials specifically targeting the Deaf community to ensure “that the messages being relayed are truly understood,” she said.

Already, Bahaghari Center has released PSAs on the basics of HIV.

PSA on HIV basics released in Filipino Sign Language

On the side of Filipino Sign Language interpreters:

1) There is still a lack of interpreters in the country (particularly in far-flung areas.

2) Also, even among the available interpreters, not many actually know about HIV.

3) There is also the lack of interpreters who can accompany Deaf Filipinos who end up testing HIV-positive when they access treatment, care and support services.

4) And there – currently – are no HIV-related programs being offered to ensure that willing interpreters are also given HIV-related knowledge and skills.

Aguila admitted that “we definitely still have a long way to go; but we do what we can, and starting with one step – such as training Deaf community members to start testing other Deaf Filipinos is but one good step.”

The training in Manila – as well as in Cebu City in the Visayas and Davao City in Mindanao – is provided by The Red Ribbon Project, Inc.

Other supporters of the project include: Outrage Magazine, Fringe Publishing, Pinoy Deaf Rainbow, TransDeaf Philippines, Deaf Dykes United and Pinoy Deaf Queer.

Call him A.M. (short for Albert Magallanes, obviously; though - he says - also to "signify being on the go, as people tend to be in the mornings"). A graduate of BS Physical Therapy (in DLS Health Sciences Institute), he found his calling ("Sort of," he laughed) attempting to organize communities ("While having fun in the process," he beamed). For instance, in Las Piñas where he is based, he helps helm an MSM group that has evolved from just offering social events to aiding its members as needed. He now writes for Outrage Magazine as the Las Piñas (and southern) correspondent.

NEWSMAKERS

Boys who are bullied online may have more risky sex

Adolescent boys who are cyber bullied pursue risky sexual behaviors more frequently than girls who are cyber bullied. Results may reflect a culture of toxic masculinity and highlight the need to pay special attention to male victims, who may be reluctant to self-identify, and therefore, at greater risk of negative health outcomes.

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Peer victimization is associated with adverse psychological and behavioral problems, including depression and risky health behaviors such as substance use and unprotected sex with multiple partners. This is according to a A collaboration of researchers at Louisiana State University, University of Missouri, and University of Tennessee in the US.

The study, “Peer victimization, depression and sexual risk behaviors among high school youth in the United States: a gender-based approach“, by Youn Kyoung Kim, Mansoo Yu, Courtney Cronley and Miyoun Yang has been published in the International Journal of Adolescent Medicine and Health. The authors examined gender differences in the relationships between four types of peer victimization (school bullying, cyber bullying, physical dating violence, and sexual dating violence), depression, and risky sexual behaviors among US high school students.

In 2015, approximately one-third of high school students in the US alone reported having sex recently. Of these, 43% had not used a condom, 21% had drunk alcohol or used drugs before sexual intercourse, and 14% had not used any contraception.

Recent research suggests that adolescent boys who are cyber bullied pursue risky sexual behaviors more frequently than girls who are cyber bullied. Results may reflect a culture of toxic masculinity and highlight the need to pay special attention to male victims, who may be reluctant to self-identify, and therefore, at greater risk of negative health outcomes.

For this newer study, the researchers analyzed the 2015 Youth Risk Behavior System Survey, a nationally representative survey of US high school students containing data from 5,288 individuals who reported having engaged in sexual intercourse. The results show that all types of peer victimization are related to symptoms of depression for both females and males, and physical and sexual dating violence are associated with increased risky sexual behaviors. However, school bullying does not predict risky sexual behaviors. Among males, cyber bullying predicts increased risky sexual behaviors and the relationship is greater when a boy is depressed.

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Bullying is, of course, a big issue for members of the LGBTQIA community.

In April 2018, for instance, a study that investigated gender expression and victimization of youth aged 13-18 found that the most gender nonconforming students reported higher levels of being bullied, were more likely to report missing school because they feel unsafe, and are most likely to report being victimized with a weapon on school property.

The effects of bullying are also long-term. In November 2018, another study found that 35.2% of gay/bisexual men who had experienced frequent school-age bullying experience frequent workplace bullying. Among lesbian women, the figure was 29%.

“It is critical to create safe and private spaces for boys to share their experiences, and we hope that this research will encourage schools to consider efforts to destigmatize victimization through peer mentorship and open communication,” said Youn Kyoung Kim.

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NEWSMAKERS

Progressive gender beliefs in teen boys may be protective against violence

Adolescents with more equitable gender attitudes – those who felt boys and girls deserve equal opportunities and respect – had lower odds of reporting violent behaviors.

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Teenage boys who witness their peers abusing women and girls are much more likely to bully and fight with others, as well as behave abusively toward their dates, compared to teenage boys who don’t witness such behaviors, according to an analysis led by the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.

Conversely, the study found that adolescents with more equitable gender attitudes – those who felt boys and girls deserve equal opportunities and respect – had lower odds of reporting violent behaviors. The results are published today in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

“The #MeToo movement brought to light how pervasive sexual violence and derogatory behavior toward women is in our society,” said lead author Elizabeth Miller, M.D., Ph.D., professor of pediatrics, public health and clinical and translational science at Pitt. “Our findings highlight the wide-ranging impact that witnessing sexual harassment and dating violence has on our teenage boys, and present an opportunity to teach adolescents to challenge negative gender and social norms, and interrupt their peer’s disrespectful and harmful behaviors.”

This study is the first to gather information from U.S. male adolescents in community-based settings, rather than schools or clinics, about multiple types of violence, including bullying and sexual harassment, and the role of gender norms and peer behaviors.

Miller and her team surveyed 866 13- to 19-year-old boys at after-school programs, libraries, churches and other youth-serving organizations in 20 lower-resource Pittsburgh neighborhoods. The teens completed the surveys anonymously between August 2015 and June 2017 as part of a larger study evaluating the effect of a prevention program to reduce sexual violence. Seventy percent of the teens identified as African American and 21% as Hispanic, multiracial or ‘other.’

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Of the 619 boys who had ever dated, 1 in 3 reported using abusive behavior toward someone they were dating in the previous 9 months. Sexual harassment, whether dating or not, was also common, with 485, or 56%, saying they’d engaged in such behavior. And 587, or 68% of the respondents, said they’d been in physical fights, or threatened or injured someone with a weapon.

Boys who said they’d witnessed their peers engaging in two or more of nine different harmful verbal, physical or sexual behaviors toward women and girls – such as making rude or disrespectful comments about a girl’s body – had 2 to 5 times higher odds of engaging in a variety of violent behaviors, some having nothing to do with women or dating.

“This reinforces that pressure to conform to stereotypes about masculinity that perpetuate harmful behaviors toward women and girls is also associated with getting in a fight with another guy,” said Miller, who is also director of the Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine at UPMC Children’s. “These behaviors aren’t happening in silos – if we’re going to stop one, we need to also be addressing the other.”

Interestingly, the research team did not find that teens who reported having more gender equitable attitudes were any less likely to engage in homophobic teasing, something three-quarters of the survey respondents endorsed.

“It’s a puzzling and troubling finding. We believe it may be because these teens have normalized homophobic teasing – it is so commonplace, they may see it as a form of acceptable, possibly even pro-social, interaction with their peers,” said Alison Culyba, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H., assistant professor of pediatrics in the Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine at UPMC Children’s. “This study illustrates the need for cross-cutting prevention strategies that address multiple aspects of youth violence.”

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As part of their study, this team of researchers are evaluating a sexual violence prevention program called Manhood 2.0. Miller has also conducted research on a program called Coaching Boys into Men that guides middle and high school coaches in talking with their male athletes about stopping violence against women and girls. Both Manhood 2.0 and Coaching Boys into Men involve reinforcing more equitable gender attitudes and increasing the number of youth who intervene when witnessing peers’ disrespectful behavior.

Kelley A. Jones, Ph.D., of UPMC Children’s and Pitt, is senior author of this research. Additional authors are Alison J. Culyba, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H., Taylor Paglisotti, B.A., Michael Massof, M.P.A., and Qi Gao, M.P.H., all of UPMC Children’s and Pitt; Katie A. Ports, Ph.D., of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); Jane Kato-Wallace, M.P.H., of Promundo-US in Washington, DC; Julie Pulerwitz, Sc.D., of the Population Council in Washington, DC; Dorothy L. Espelage, Ph.D., of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; and Kaleab Z. Abebe, Ph.D., of Pitt.

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From as young as 4, children see males as more powerful than females

When the children had to consider their power relation with a person of the same gender as themselves, the girls and boys both largely identified with the dominant character.

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As early as 4 years old, children associate power and masculinity, even in countries considered to be more egalitarian like Norway. This is what scientists at the Institut des Sciences Cognitives Marc Jeannerod (CNRS/Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1) report, in collaboration with the Universities of Oslo (Norway), Lausanne and Neuchâtel (Switzerland), in a study published in Sex Roles. They also show that in some situations the power-masculinity association does not manifest in girls.

Little is known about how representations of power interact with gender in early childhood. Researchers at the Institut des Sciences Cognitives Marc Jeannerod (CNRS/Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1), in collaboration with the Universities of Oslo (Norway), Lausanne and Neuchâtel (Switzerland) wanted to know whether children aged 3 to 6 years old in France, Lebanon, and Norway attribute more power to masculine figures than feminine figures.

In a first experiment, they showed the children a picture with two non-gendered individuals. One of them adopted a dominant physical posture and the other a subordinate posture. First the children had to guess which of these two individuals was exerting power over the other. Next they had to assign a gender to each individual (Who is the girl? Who is the boy?). The results reveal that from 4 years old, a large majority of children consider the dominant individual to be a boy. The power-masculinity association was observed in both boys and girls, and just as much in Lebanon as in France and Norway. However it was not significant in 3-year old children.

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In a second experiment, this time in children aged 4 and 5 years old all in school in France, had to imagine themselves in the picture and imagine the other person as a boy or a girl. When the children had to consider their power relation with a person of the same gender as themselves, the girls and boys both largely identified with the dominant character. But when they had to consider their power relation with a person of the opposite gender, boys identified more often with the dominant character whereas girls did not significantly identify more with one or other of the characters.

Finally, in a third experiment, children aged 4 and 5 years old in Lebanon and France watched a series of exchanges between two puppets, one representing a girl and the other a boy, behind a board (1). In one case, the puppets were getting ready to play a game together and the child heard one impose their choices on the other. In the other case, one puppet had more money than the other to buy ice cream. In France and Lebanon, most of the boys thought that the puppet that imposed their choices or that had more money was the male puppet. However, the girls in both countries did not attribute the dominant position preferably to one or other gender.

These results show that children have early sensitivity to a gender hierarchy, though in some situations girls do not associate power and masculinity. The scientists now hope to find out what power forms they attribute to feminine figures and whether they legitimize the expression of gendered power.

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1 The puppets, which were shown to the children before being hidden behind the board, were manipulated by the same speaker and “spoke” with the same voice, working as in a cartoon. So, behind the board, it was not to possible to differentiate them by their voice.

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LIVING HISTORY

Supreme Court junks with finality petition for same-sex marriage

But in its earlier ruling on the matter, the SC said the Constitution does not restrict marriage on the basis of sex. It stated that the 1987 Constitution, from its “plain text,” “does not define, or restrict, marriage on the basis of sex, gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression.”

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The Supreme Court (SC) of the Philippines has junked – with finality – the petition that sought to legalize same-sex marriage in the country.

In a two-page notice issued by the SC last December 10, 2019 (but only made available on January 6, 2020), the SC denied “with finality the said motion for reconsideration as no substantial arguments were presented to warrant the reversal of the questioned decision.”

In October 2015, Atty. Jesus Nicardo Falcis III filed the petition that sought to strike down the prohibitions against same-sex marriage under the Family Code. But the SC dismissed Falcis’ petition “on account of his lack of standing, violating the principle of hierarchy of courts, and failing to raise an actual, justiciable controversy,” SC’s spokesperson Brian Keith Hosaka said in a news conference on September 3, 2019.

But in its earlier ruling on the matter, the SC said the Constitution does not restrict marriage on the basis of sex. It stated that the 1987 Constitution, from its “plain text,” “does not define, or restrict, marriage on the basis of sex, gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression.”

The High Court, nonetheless, had to deny the petition based on Falcis’ lack of standing, violation of the principle of hierarchy of courts, and failure to raise an actual, justiciable controversy.

This time around, the SC stated that “no further pleadings or motions will be entertained,” said SC Clerk of Court Edgar Aricheta.

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For the SC, through Associate Justice Marvic Leonen who penned the decision, “same-sex couples may morally claim that they have a right against discrimination for their choice of relationships and that official recognition of their partnerships may, for now, be a matter that should be addressed to Congress.”

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NEWSMAKERS

Gender norms affect attitudes towards gay men and lesbian women globally

Negative attitudes are guided by the perception that gays and lesbians violate traditional gender norms.

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Gay men and lesbian women have often been the targets of prejudice and even violence in society. To better understand what shapes these attitudes and prejudices, Maria Laura Bettinsoli, Alexandra Suppes, and Jamie Napier (all New York University – Abu Dhabi) tested how beliefs about gender norms (expectations of society for how men and women act and look) and people’s attitudes towards gay men and women relate across the globe.

They found that globally, gay men are disliked more than lesbian women across 23 countries. Their results also suggest negative attitudes are guided by the perception that gays and lesbians violate traditional gender norms. But in three countries, China, India, and South Korea, the correlation between beliefs in gender norms and attitudes towards gays and lesbians was absent or even reversed.

The research appears in Social Psychological and Personality Science.

The team assessed attitudes towards gay men and lesbian women separately, noting that most research focuses on homosexuality as a broad category and doesn’t separate attitudes by gender.

Bettinsoli and colleagues were surprised at how consistently gay men were rated more negatively than lesbian women in a vast majority of their samples.

They were also surprised “at the consistency of the relationship between gender norm endorsement and sexual prejudice,” says Bettinsoli. “Even though there were some non-Western countries that did not conform to the pattern, the majority of countries did.”

These findings were true for western countries including Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Italy, Mexico, Peru, Poland, Spain, Sweden, and the US. The same was true for Russia, South Africa, and Turkey too.

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“We also found that, in line with previous research, the endorsement of gender norms was associated with anti-gay attitudes–toward both gay men and lesbian women–in every Western country in our sample,” says Bettinsoli.

In South Korea, the researchers saw that endorsement of gender norms was unrelated to attitudes toward gays and lesbians, and in Japan, there was a small association between gender norm endorsement and attitudes toward gay men, but not towards lesbian women.

“In China and India, the reverse pattern emerged. Those who were highest on endorsement of traditional gender roles were the most positive toward gay men and lesbian women,” says Bettinsoli.

While some of the countries show friendlier attitudes towards gays and lesbians, Bettinsoli notes that even in the more tolerant places discriminatory attitudes still exist.

The study is one of several appearing in a future special issue of Social Psychological and Personality Science focused on underrepresented populations.

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NEWSMAKERS

Having to defend one’s sexuality increases fear of childbirth

Fear of childbirth is the same, regardless of sexuality. The difference is that in addition to this fear, lesbian and bisexual women and transsexual people are afraid of being questioned or offended because of their identity.

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In order to help people with fear of childbirth, there must be trust between the patient and the healthcare staff. But for many lesbian and bisexual women and transgender people, this trust never develops. These are the results of a study in the journal Midwifery from researchers at Linköping University.

Fear of childbirth (FOC) in heterosexual people is a well-researched field, but we know little about how lesbian and bisexual women and transsexual people experience pregnancy, childbirth and reproductive healthcare. Anna Malmquist and Katri Nieminen, researchers at Linköping University, have investigated the topic in depth. The study has been published in the journal Midwifery.

“This study shows that fear of childbirth is the same, regardless of sexuality. The difference is that in addition to this fear, lesbian and bisexual women and transsexual people are afraid of being questioned or offended because of their identity. That is, their fear has an added dimension,” says Malmquist.

The study includes interviews with 17 people who identify as either lesbian, bisexual or transgender. Many of the interviewees state that they have numerous positive experiences of maternal care and obstetrics, but also negative experiences. The additional layer of fear and stress felt by this group in its encounter with health care is called minority stress. This is the stress experienced by people who challenge norms when they must repeatedly explain their relationship or are forced to deal with comments, misunderstanding or incomprehension.

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The study’s conclusion is that lesbian and bisexual women and transsexual people with FOC are particularly vulnerable in healthcare. In order to help people with FOC, there must be trust between the healthcare staff and the patient. If instead the staff stress the patient more, for instance by assuming the patient is heterosexual, this trust will never develop to a level where the FOC can be addressed.

Malmquist explains that improving the situation for lesbian and bisexual women and transsexual people with FOC requires training. Healthcare staff must be familiar with the various groups they can encounter at work, keep in mind that not everyone is heterosexual, and understand what minority stress is.

“It’s not enough that healthcare staff feel they are ‘open-minded’ in their interaction with this group. They need knowledge. These patients are already having a lot of difficulty with their fear of childbirth. They shouldn’t have to train their midwife as well,” says Malmquist.

Looking forward, Malmquist and Katri Nieminen will study whether FOC is more common in lesbian and bisexual women and transsexual people than in heterosexual people.

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