New York, NY and Accra, Ghana -- (ArriveNet - Jul 09, 2005) -- Recognizing that sexual minorities in developing countries often face a double setback from lack of resources and discrimination in accessing healthcare, the Health Equity Project (HEP), a New York based nonprofit group, has launched a new initiative to assist gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender (GLBT) and commercial sex worker populations in the West African country of Ghana. HEP plans to expand the program to other African countries. Although finding judgment-free healthcare providers can be a challenge, most GLBT patients in such settings are unable to afford basic medical treatment even if they are fortunate enough to find a supportive doctor. As such, HEP covers the cost of medicines, treatments, and physician visits while connecting patients to a network of non-discriminatory health care providers screened through the organization. The program is being tested and services are underway in the capital city of Accra, Ghana. According to Travis Sherer, HEP's Director, the initiative is a “bold and important move, given our emphasis on reaching out to socially marginalized populations in sub-Saharan Africa. Although there is a substantial body of research on men who have sex with men and commercial sex workers in Africa, very little of it translates into any substantive help for the populations that are serving as research subjects.” HEP staffers recently returned from Ghana where they found a large and well-organized GLBT population, albeit operating almost exclusively underground. They recount numerous stories of gays, lesbians, and sex workers who were refused treatment by healthcare providers if their illness or other factors lead to suspicion of their sexual orientation or line of work. One of HEP's first program clients, Josef, said “I was really going though a real tough time before, I lost my job and my family deserted me because of my sexual orientation. There was no one to help me out. Through the program I was able to get medicines and see a doctor, who encouraged me to pursue my dreams all the way, even helping me get started at school.” Health Equity Project is seeking assistance to help pay for medical visits and treatment for program clients as well as unused medicines and supplies to send abroad to its partners. HEP's website at www.healthequityproject.org/what_we_do/sexual_minorities_health.html has more information on the program and how those interested can help.