Despite major progress in treatment and prevention, being diagnosed with HIV can have a big emotional impact on individuals. People with HIV have higher rates of mental health problems than those seen in the general population. One reason for this may be HIV-related stigma, explains Professor Alan Winston from the Department of Infectious Disease.
Since the late 1990s, I have been treating people living with HIV and been involved in HIV clinical research. Many things we read about HIV are success stories, and quite rightly we should celebrate these tremendous scientific and medical advances. Life expectancy for someone with HIV is now similar to that of the general population. Antiretroviral therapy generally has manageable side effects and for most individuals, does not incur that many tablets per day. Indeed, many HIV treatments involve taking only one tablet per day. So, why then do so many people with HIV suffer from depression, other mental health conditions, and a poorer quality of life?
Experience in clinic
Most people living with HIV, once on a stable treatment, will attend their treatment centre twice per year. Often appointments rotate between a consultant or medical doctor once per year and a nurse specialist on the other occasion. As we can’t cure HIV, our patients attend for life, and we get to know them very well. At consultations, in addition to routine monitoring, we ask people how they are keeping. What stands out are the number of individuals who report symptoms of depression and other mental health conditions such as anxiety. Whilst many of us suffer from mental health complaints, the burden of these complaints in people living with HIV is very high. Thankfully, we do have help in clinic and have a specific clinic run by a psychiatry nurse specialist we can refer patients to.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex or aseaxual (LGBTQIA+) travellers can face unique challenges when travelling abroad. That’s why, Rosie Maddren, Lucy Okell, Beth Cracknell-Daniels, Joseph Hicks and Christina Aitchison from the School of Public Health set up the LGBTQIA+ International Support Group at Imperial to help improve the overall experience of going abroad for LGBTQIA+ staff and student travellers.
“So are you married?”
I freeze. How do I respond? It seems like a simple enough question, but I’m gay (and so is my spouse). The question is being asked by a taxi driver in a country where not only is same-sex marriage illegal, but so is homosexuality in general. And it’s not just something imposed by the government. A recent poll suggested that 90% of this country’s citizens have a negative view of LGBTQ people. So how do I respond? How would you?
Travelling abroad for work is a rewarding opportunity that can come with challenges for any student or staff member. For those identifying as part of the LGBTQIA+ community, such travel can be associated with further complications. Legal restrictions and societal norms of some countries may make LGBTQIA+ staff and students feel anxious, unwelcome or unsafe. Unfortunately, in certain environments being your true self can directly impact your safety. On the other hand, presenting a censored version of yourself may negatively impact your mental health and wellbeing. There is no single correct way to navigate such situations, and there is limited guidance on this topic provided not only by Imperial, but wider networks across the globe. Last year, a group of us started working together to help build support for LGBTQIA+ staff and student travellers at Imperial.
As a chronically under-represented and under-researched group, the unique experiences of LGBTQ+ healthcare staff in the workplace are often neglected. Third-year medical student, Avani Ela Kaura, highlights why it’s imperative that we listen, address and support the specific needs of LGBTQ+ people.
Exploring how work-related stress affects LGBTQ+ healthcare professionals in my recent Letter to the Editor was greatly saddening, and a little dark. However, having been published in The BMJ and reaching a wider audience, my hope is that awareness has been raised, granting volume to these silenced voices. This is especially important as the unique yet varied experiences of LGBTQ+ people are in-genuinely, or more frequently, not explored. Despite being at the dawn of my career, I am keen to pioneer a movement of change.
How can we foster a sense of authenticity within ethnically minoritised students? Dr Zoe Moula, Teaching Fellow at the School of Public Health, aims to raise awareness of how we can promote a more inclusive educational environment and understand the barriers which can affect a student’s sense of authenticity within higher education.
The underrepresentation of ethnically minoritised students at university, and even more so in medicine, often results in identity suppression in order to ‘fit in’. Yet, this can lead to increased anxiety, and interferes with a student’s ability to succeed academically and professionally. Societal, structural and institutional factors, such as racism, discrimination and socioeconomic inequalities may all play a part into why a student may not be able to express their true self. It is therefore crucial that any effort to promote Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) must also protect and promote a student’s sense of authenticity. (more…)
Cate Goldwater Breheny, undergraduate student at the School of Medicine, reflects on their first MEdIC Masterclass and the discussions sparked around diversity and inclusivity.
When I first suggested signing up to medical education masterclasses over the summer, people were skeptical. After a long year of university, wouldn’t it be better to have some time off? Why medical education over a paying job or maybe a scientific internship?
And I confess, I was perhaps a little skeptical too. Yet, it only took five minutes to sign up, and then I had the rest of term to worry about. As it turned out, that was five minutes incredibly well spent.
As a part of LGBT+ History Month, Stevie Lam, from the School of Medicine has teamed up with IQ Society to celebrate our LGBT+ community and share their stories!
Jeh – 4th Year MBBS Medicine
In celebration of LGBT STEM Day, Dr Akif Khawaja shares the small things everyone can do to make STEM more LGBT-inclusive.
With the glitter of the Mighty Hoopla weekend – a LGBT-friendly pop music festival – having finally settled, all eyes are now set on Pride. For many this will mean another (hopefully sunny) weekend of short shorts, tank tops and daytime drinking. In addition to the parade, especially in London, pride month is chock-a-block of events highlighting all aspects of LGBT+ culture and history. This year, Pride in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) has been helping to showcase and support LGBT+ people within the STEM fields by organising LGBT STEM Day.
So, what is Pride in STEM and what is LGBT STEM Day?
Starting with the easy one – Pride in STEM is a charitable trust run by an independent group of LGBT+ scientists and engineers. Founded in 2016, Pride in STEM was the brainchild of Dr Alfredo Carpineti, his husband Chris, and Matt Young. They aim to support all LGBT+ people spanning all of STEM and in doing so, raise their profiles and showcase their work. Now as for LGBT STEM day, this was their latest effort to promote the dissemination of work done by LGBT+ STEM staff. It falls on Friday 5 July 2019 (I’m told purposefully chosen as 507nm is the wavelength of the green stripe in the pride flag – 5.07 … get it?!) and the day before the Pride in London Parade. (more…)
One of our PhD students from the National Heart and Lung Institute (NHLI) argues the importance of making STEM LGBT-inclusive, from improving visibility to expanding diversity initiatives to include LGBT people.
A large barrier to the creation of an inclusive workplace in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), in my experience, is the view that being out is regarded as “unprofessional” because it is seen as too “personal”, even though most of our colleagues are “out” as being straight without issue. LGBT people tend to depoliticise themselves in the workplace because there is a commonly held view that discussions about inequality are not regarded as relevant to STEM work. The term “LGBT” will be used in this post to refer to anyone who identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans or intersex, or who does not conform to society’s expectations in terms of sexual or gender identity and expression.
The lack of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) diversity within STEM subjects is a longstanding issue that is too often left out of conversations about broadening participation in STEM. It is estimated that LGBT people are approximately 20 per cent less represented in STEM fields than expected. Additionally, male LGBT undergraduates are much less likely to stay in STEM degrees than straight men. (more…)
Katie Stripe gives a personal account of why she wears the rainbow lanyard to make herself visible to others who may need to see gay people doing normal things.
I could start by telling you what I identify as, but I don’t think that is important. The defining features of my character are more about what I am like as a person; sarcastic, grumpy, caring, funny, and what I do; I like to lift heavy weights, play hockey, take photographs, go on holiday and I did my first triathlon at 35 and now I am hooked (or mad). I am also a learning technologist and a learning designer, I build stuff online and develop learning materials and environments for students at Imperial’s National Heart and Lung Institute (NHLI). Having said all that I am writing this because as a gay member of the Imperial community I think it is important that I am visible to people who may need to see gay people doing normal things. (more…)