Priya Helweg is the acting regional director and executive officer for the Region 10 Office of Intergovernmental and External Affairs, Office of the Secretary, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (Photo courtesy U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)

Priya Helweg is the acting regional director and executive officer for the Region 10 Office of Intergovernmental and External Affairs, Office of the Secretary, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (Photo courtesy U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)

Happy Pride Month

This month is dedicated to acknowledging and uplifting the voices and experiences of the LGBTQI+ community

June is a month of vibrant celebrations, marked by rainbow flags and parades, as communities around Alaska come together to celebrate Pride Month. This month is dedicated to acknowledging and uplifting the voices and experiences of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, two spirit, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI+) community. We have come a long way in our understanding of how to support the health and well-being of those who identify as LGBTQ+. We know gender-affirming care saves lives. We also know that individuals in the LGBTQI+ community still experience discrimination when accessing health care and suffer from disproportionate health disparities. As a federal agency, we strive to show up for the LGBTQI+ community in meaningful ways.

As acting regional director for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in Region 10, I see first-hand how we strive to implement policies that improve equitable access to health care across our states. This includes the Biden-Harris Administration’s recent work to strengthen the civil rights protections for the LGBTQI+ community. Last month, new guidance was issued that emphasizes that no one should be discriminated against when seeking health care because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or sex characteristics.

In April, we finalized a policy that strengthens protections against harassment, abuse, and mistreatment for LGBTQI+ youth in foster care. LGBTQI+ children in foster care face significantly higher levels of bullying and harassment in care than other children. This final rule makes it clear that all children in the child welfare system, including LGBTQI+ children, are entitled to protections against harassment, abuse, and mistreatment. Additionally, another new rule relating to the Older Americans Act designated LGBTQI+ and HIV + older adults as a population of greatest need.

Pride Month gives us an opportunity to celebrate the progress we have made to advance health and well-being in the LGBTQI+ community. At the Department of Health and Human Services, we know our work is not done — we will continue to make health equity a cornerstone of our policies and work tirelessly so that all communities can access the care they need. To see a full list of HHS accomplishments towards advancing LGBTQI+ health, follow this link: https://www.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/biden-harris-administration-highlights-key-lgbtqi-plus-progress-hhs.pdf .

Priya Helweg is the acting regional director and executive officer for the Region 10 Office of Intergovernmental and External Affairs, Office of the Secretary, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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