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How COVID-19 can affect the LGBTQ community

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How COVID-19 can affect the LGBTQ community

If you’re wondering how COVID-19 will affect the LGBTQ community, around 100 national and local organizations have signed an open letter detailing the increased risk to us and what to do about it.

The World Health Organization (WHO) details that COVID-19 is an infectious disease that’s a recently discovered coronavirus, which is a family of viruses that causes respiratory infections.

Included in this family were the more severe diseases like the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

Call out on COVID-19 health efforts

The open letter– found here— by the organizations outlined how disease is an increased risk for the LGBTQ population and laid out the steps to minimize the disparity.

“As the media and health communities are pushed into overdrive about COVID-19, we need to make sure the most vulnerable among us are not forgotten,” said Dr. Scout, the Deputy Director for the National LGBT Cancer Network.

“Our smoking rates alone make us extremely vulnerable and our access to care barriers only make a bad situation worse,” Dr. Scout added.

“We urge LGBTQ individuals to practice measures recommended by public health experts, such as frequent handwashing, to prevent the spread of this virus,” said Doctor Scott Nass, president of GLMA, an organization safeguarding health equity for LGBTQ.

“At the same time, like our colleagues who joined the open letter, we call on public health officials to ensure the LGBTQ community is considered and included in the public health response to COVID-19 based on potential risk factors that exist in our community,” Dr. Nass said.

Aside from National LGBT Cancer Network and GLMA, the letter was initiated by a coalition that includes Whitman-Walker Health; SAGE; New York Transgender Advocacy Group; and National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance.

Open Letter on the LGBTQ and COVID-19

In the letter, the organizations reminded that the LGBTQ communities are among “those who are particularly vulnerable to the negative health effects of this virus” because of three factors:

(1) “The LGBTQ population uses tobacco at rates that are 50% higher than the general population. COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that has proven particularly harmful to smokers.”

(2) “The LGBTQ population has higher rates of HIV and cancer, which means a greater number of us may have compromised immune systems, leaving us more vulnerable to COVID-19 infections.”

(3) “LGBTQ people continue to experience discrimination, unwelcoming attitudes, and lack of understanding from providers and staff in many health care settings, and as a result, many are reluctant to seek medical care except in situations that feel urgent– and perhaps not even then.”

The letter further pointed that there are more than three million LGBTQ older people living in the US.

Because of this, LGBTQ elders are already less likely than their heterosexual and cisgender counterparts to reach out to health and aging providers due to fears of discrimination and harassment.

Presently, the impact of this coronavirus on older people has a current mortality rate of 15 percent for this population.

How to help the community against COVID-19

With the spread of the coronavirus, the organizations said the following steps could ensure the LGBTQ community will be be served by health efforts during the outbreak.

(1) “Ensuring that media coverage notes the particular vulnerabilities of any person with pre-existing respiratory illnesses, compromised immune systems or who uses tobacco products. While populations– like LGBTQ communities– can be at increased risk, it is important to note the overall state of health that contributes to any person’s increased vulnerability to contracting COVID-19.”

(2) “Ensuring health messaging includes information tailored to communities at increased risk for COVID-19, including LGBTQ populations. An example of such tailored messaging is including imagery of LGBTQ persons in any graphic ads.”

(3) “Providing LGBTQ individuals resources to find welcoming providers, such as the ones provided here, if they are experiencing symptoms like a cough or fever and need to seek medical attention.”

(4) “Ensuring funding to community health centers is distributed in a fashion that accounts for the additional burden anticipated by LGBTQ-identified health centers.”

(5) “Whenever possible ensuring health agencies partner with community-based organizations to get messaging out through channels we trust.”

(6) “Ensuring surveillance efforts capture sexual orientation and gender identity as part of routine demographics.”

(7) “Ensuring health workers are directed to provide equal care to all regardless of their actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity/presentation, ability, age, national origin, immigration status, race, or ethnicity.”

(8) “Ensuring that all COVID-19 responses take into account exceptionally vulnerable members of the LGBTQ communities, including our elders, bi people, and black and brown trans and gender nonconforming/nonbinary people.”

(9) “Since xenophobic responses are heavily impacting the Asian American communities, ensuring all communications and responses related to COVID-19 attempt to counter any such xenophobic responses, avoid racial profiling, and discourage the public from doing so as well.”

(10) “Ensuring LGBTQ health leadership, along with all providers and health care centers, are provided with timely and accurate information to disseminate.”

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