In a move to address the underlying healthcare disparities faced by the transgender community, the first outpatient department has been opened at Dr. R.M.L Hospital. This facility aims to annihilate discrimination while providing accessible healthcare services to a community that has experienced harassment and humiliation for a long time. Transgender people often witness challenges in seeking healthcare benefits because of the discomfort and the fear of discrimination. The new outpatient department seeks to change this narrative by creating an inclusive environment. It will be operational every Friday from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), transgender people are approximately 13 times more likely to be HIV-positive than other adults of reproductive age. Access to healthcare services has been limited due to various factors, including violence, legal barriers, stigma, and discrimination. While the Indian government has taken steps to support the transgender community, even their inclusion in the Ayushman Bharat scheme that provides health coverage and medical care services, there remains a gap in medical care.
One of the critical issues highlighted in a recently published study titled "The Third Gender in a Third World Country: Major Concerns and the AIIMS Initiative" is the high suicide rate among transgender individuals in India, estimated at 31%. Shockingly, about half of these attempts occurred before the age of 20, underscoring the urgency of providing appropriate healthcare and mental health support. Additionally, the study notes that over 50% of transgender individuals resort to seeking treatment from unqualified sources or self-medicating due to social intolerance and stigmatization. Furthermore, 48% of transgender persons suffer from psychiatric disorders without receiving consultation.
Healthcare disparities extend beyond mental health concerns; transgender individuals also face higher rates of Human papillomavirus (HPV) infections. Combined with tobacco use, this increases their risk of anal and other cancers. While some private healthcare facilities in India offer medical care to the transgender community, these services often come at a high cost, making them inaccessible for many. The outpatient department at Dr. R.M.L. Hospital, with its focus on free treatment and investigations, sex change surgeries, endocrinology assessments, plastic and dermatological surgeries, and pediatrics, represents a significant step towards government-backed inclusive healthcare.
Transgender individuals applaud these initiatives but stress the need for educating the community about healthcare protocols and sensitizing the support staff. Trust-building and humane treatment are paramount in ensuring the success and sustainability of such ventures. India's transgender population is estimated at 4.88 lakh as per the 2011 census, and despite some state-level efforts to provide healthcare facilities for this community, the new outpatient department marks the Central government's first direct involvement in addressing their unique healthcare needs.