For the first time in South Florida, a health care expo for women of color was held Saturday, Sept. 24 at the Pride Center in Wilton Manors. About 75 women were expected, but more than twice that number actually showed up.
“This is an historic event,” said lesbian activist Naomi Parker, member of Rainbow Ladies and former board member of the Pride Center. It was the first time ever that so many African American women had been there.
“Women of color are much closeted. For them for come to the Pride Center is such an affirmation that the Pride Center is a safe place,” according to Parker.
Attendees were able to receive breast exams, HIV testing, cholesterol screenings and information on how to receive affordable mammograms and Pap Tests. Attending the event and receiving those tests were potentially lifesaving for a handful of participants. Two women were found with lumps in their breasts. At least one other was found to be at risk for ovarian cancer. While all of those women need further tests, the expo revealed the lack of access to affordable health care.
Several organizations came together to hold this event including Rainbow Ladies, Beta Phi Omega and Area Resource and Referral Organization for Women or ARROW. Much-needed support came from Bobbi Meyers, Executive Director of the Miami/Fort Lauderdale Susan G. Komen affiliate.
“Health care is a women’s issue. None of the public health systems address lesbian, bi, and transgender women of all races,” says Dr. Nan Van Den Bergh of ARROW.
While the event was open to all women, it targeted women of color who are LBT. The high attendance shows those women are an underserved population when it comes to health care. “Doctors and other health care providers need to be educated on the risk for LBT women of color. Their needs have not been given visibility,” says Van Den Bergh.
Let’s take breast cancer for example. White women are more likely to be diagnosed while Latina and Black women are more likely to die from it. A main part of the disparity is access to affordable healthcare.
LBT women are also less inclined to seek preventative health care in the face of discrimination and homophobia. Visit ArrowLBT.org for a list of health care resources available.