Objectives. We examined the proportion of studies funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that focused on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) populations, along with investigated health topics.
Methods. We used the NIH RePORTER system to search for LGBT-related terms in NIH-funded research from 1989 through 2011. We coded abstracts for LGBT inclusion, subpopulations studied, health foci, and whether studies involved interventions.
Results. NIH funded 628 studies concerning LGBT health. Excluding projects about HIV/AIDS and other sexual health matters, only 0.1% (n = 113) of all NIH-funded studies concerned LGBT health. Among the LGBT-related projects, 86.1% studied sexual minority men, 13.5% studied sexual minority women, and 6.8% studied transgender populations. Overall, 79.1% of LGBT-related projects focused on HIV/AIDS and substantially fewer on illicit drug use (30.9%), mental health (23.2%), other sexual health matters (16.4%), and alcohol use (12.9%). Only 202 studies examined LGBT health–related interventions. Over time, the number of LGBT-related projects per year increased.
Conclusions. The lack of NIH-funded research about LGBT health contributes to the perpetuation of health inequities. Here we recommend ways for NIH to stimulate LGBT-related research.