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Keywords:

  • attitudes;
  • bisexual;
  • gay;
  • homosexual;
  • lesbian;
  • nursing;
  • primary health care;
  • survey

Aim.  This paper reports a study exploring people's perceptions of disclosure about lesbian, gay and bisexual identity to their primary healthcare providers.

Background.  Disclosure of sexual identity to healthcare professionals is integral to attending to the health needs of lesbian, gay and bisexual populations, as non-disclosure has been shown to have a negative impact on the health of these people. For example, an increased incidence of suicide, depression and other mental health problems have been reported.

Method.  From April to July 2004, a national survey of lesbian, gay and bisexual persons was carried out in New Zealand. Participants were recruited through mainstream and lesbian, gay and bisexual media and venues, and 2269 people completed the questionnaire, either electronically or via hard copy. The 133-item instrument included a range of closed-response questions in a variety of domains of interest.

Results.  In this paper, we report results from the health and well-being domain. More women than men identified that the practitioner's attitude toward their non-heterosexual identity was important when choosing a primary healthcare provider. Statistically significantly more women than men reported that their healthcare provider usually or always presumed that they were heterosexual and in addition more women had disclosed their sexual identity to their healthcare provider.

Conclusion.  Nurses need to reconsider their approach to all users of healthcare services by not assuming everyone is heterosexual, integrating questions about sexual identity into health interviews and ensuring that all other aspects of the assessment process are appropriate and safe for lesbian, gay and bisexual people.