Hong Kong doctors get lessons in how to be more welcoming to gay patients


An Aids concern group has launched a training scheme to help doctors be more friendly to gay patients after a survey found more than a fifth of homosexuals shunned medical services.

In an online survey by NGO Aids Concern from January to February, 20.3 per cent of 138 gay men questioned said they would not see a doctor for fear of revealing their sexual orientation.

Some 55 per cent said they concealed their orientation when seeing doctors about sexual health issues.

Most of them felt embarrassed and were worried about discrimination or stigma if their sexual orientation was disclosed. Around 9 per cent said they had experienced discrimination by health care staff after telling doctors they were gay.

“David” recalled his unpleasant experience when seeing a doctor two years ago with flu. He said the general practitioner did not give him a thorough check-up after he told him he was gay.

“He didn’t check my chest with a stethoscope throughout the whole consultation,” said David, who is in his 20s.

The doctor asked David again whether he was homosexual during a second consultation.

“I did have hard feelings – I have never told doctors I am gay since then,” he said.

Since September last year, the group has approached more than 200 GPs and specialists and 30 medical students in introducing the Dr Rainbow Scheme, a programme that instructs doctors on gay friendly consultations.

Dr Joseph Tsang Kay-yan, one of 16 doctors who have joined the programme, said respect for privacy was crucial. For instance, the doctor could ask the nurse or family members to leave the consultation room to give the patient better privacy.

He said doctors should also be careful in their choice of language when talking about a patient’s sexual relationship.

“They might use ‘partner’ or ‘significant other’, which sound more neutral and comfortable to gay patients,” said Tsang, a private specialist in infectious diseases.

Doctors who join the scheme can choose to display a sticker in their clinics, showing their commitment to gay-friendly services.

Dr Henry Yeung Chiu-fat, president of the Doctors Union, said social acceptance affected how doctors responded to such issues. “How would others see that doctor if he or she showed the [gay-friendly] sign in the clinic?”