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Barriers and Facilitators to Gender-affirming Hormone Therapy in the Veterans Health Administration.

Wolfe HL, Boyer TL, Shipherd JC, Kauth MR, Jasuja GK, Blosnich JR. Barriers and Facilitators to Gender-affirming Hormone Therapy in the Veterans Health Administration. Annals of behavioral medicine : a publication of the Society of Behavioral Medicine. 2023 Nov 16; 57(12):1014-1023.

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BACKGROUND: In 2011, the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) established a policy for the delivery of transition-related services, including gender-affirming hormone therapy (GAHT), for transgender and gender diverse (TGD) patients. In the decade since this policy's implementation, limited research has investigated barriers and facilitators of VHA's provision of this evidence-based therapy that can improve life satisfaction among TGD patients. PURPOSE: This study provides a qualitative summary of barriers and facilitators to GAHT at the individual (e.g., knowledge, coping mechanisms), interpersonal (e.g., interactions with other individuals or groups), and structural (e.g., gender norms, policies) levels. METHODS: Transgender and gender diverse patients (n = 30) and VHA healthcare providers (n = 22) completed semi-structured, in-depth interviews in 2019 regarding barriers and facilitators to GAHT access and recommendations for overcoming perceived barriers. Two analysts used content analysis to code and analyze transcribed interview data and employed the Sexual and Gender Minority Health Disparities Research Framework to organize themes into multiple levels. RESULTS: Facilitators included having GAHT offered through primary care or TGD specialty clinics and knowledgeable providers, with patients adding supportive social networks and self-advocacy. Several barriers were identified, including a lack of providers trained or willing to prescribe GAHT, patient dissatisfaction with prescribing practices, and anticipated or enacted stigma. To overcome barriers, participants recommended increasing provider capacity, providing opportunities for continual education, and enhancing communication around VHA policy and training. CONCLUSIONS: Multi-level system improvements within and outside the VHA are needed to ensure equitable and efficient access to GAHT.

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