Intended for healthcare professionals

Education And Debate

Homophobia among doctors

BMJ 1994; 308 doi: (Published 26 February 1994) Cite this as: BMJ 1994;308:586
  1. L Rose
  1. Foundation for AIDS Counselling, Treatment and Support, London N8 9SY.
  • Accepted 23 September 1993

Homophobia creates stress for gay men and women. An interview study of 28 doctors, 20 gay and eight non-gay, was performed to assess whether homophobia is strong among the medical profession, the stress it causes, and whether the advent of AIDS and HIV infection has increased the stress. The doctors, recruited by word of mouth and by a letter in the medical and gay press, were asked about their own attitudes to homosexuality and AIDS. Only one (non-gay) doctor thought that there was no prejudice against gay doctors in the medical profession. The gay doctors certainly perceived prejudice, which they claimed caused them extra stress; the advent of AIDS had increased this stress to an extent. Doctors who had not openly declared themselves to be gay feared doing so because of the effect on their job prospects, but those who had declared themselves openly reported less stress than previously. Homophobia clearly exists within the medical profession. Non-gay doctors should use the power of the profession to challenge homophobia in the profession and in society. HIV infection could then be treated as a purely medical condition; sufferers would receive wider understanding and the pressures of extra workload could be more equally shared.

Medical treatment often has more to do with doctors' values and attitudes than with objective realities.1 Definitions of disease and values change over time, and doctors are as susceptible to changes in moral values as the rest of the population.2 Homosexuality was included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders until as recently as 1973.

Doctors' attitudes to homosexuality may be expected to mirror those of society at large. If, as seems likely, many doctors are homophobic and if many do not wish to treat patients for AIDS because they perceive it as a socially …

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