Some of the most well-respected LGBTQ advocacy groups in the US – including HRC and GLAAD – have signed an open letter to remind “all parties handling COVID-19 surveillance, response, treatment, and media coverage that LGBTQ+ communities are among those who are particularly vulnerable to the negative health effects of this virus.”
COVID-19 is the name given to this particular form of coronavirus.
The letter states that LGBTQ people have an increased vulnerability linked to the following 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.”
It goes on to state, “In addition, there are more than 3 million LGBTQ+ older people living in the United States. LGBTQ+ elders are already less likely than their heterosexual and cisgender peers to reach out to health and aging providers, like senior centers, meal programs, and other programs designed to ensure their health and wellness, because they fear discrimination and harassment.
“The devastating impact of COVID-19 on older people – the current mortality rate is at 15% for this population – makes this a huge issue for the LGBTQ+ communities as well.
“LGBTQ+ communities are very familiar with the phenomena of stigma and epidemics. We want to urge people involved with the COVID-19 response to ensure that LGBTQ+ communities are adequately served during this outbreak.”
It goes on to list recommendations to parties involved in handling the coronavirus pandemic.
These include, “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.”
They also recommend monitoring the spread of COVID-19 in LGBTQ communities, and ensuring health workers 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.”
The letter has been signed by National LGBT Cancer Network, SAGE, Whitman-Walker Health, GLAAD, Human Rights Campaign, the Harvey Milk Foundation, Callen-Lorde Community Health Center, Lambda Legal and over 90 other organizations.
Yesterday, the World Health Organization officially classified coronavirus as a pandemic. Besides Italy, Denmark has placed itself in lockdown, while President Donald Trump has ruled that travel from most of Europe will be banned for 30 days from Friday, to stem the spread of the virus.
The National LGBT Cancer Network, which published the open letter on its website, also offers information for LGBTQ people concerned about the virus, including advice on handwashing and links to resources.
It highlights those most at risk: “If an LGBTQ+ person has cancer, smokes, is HIV+, is over 65 years old, or has any other fragile health condition, consider taking additional measures to avoid risk of infection.
“This could include more vigilance about staying away from symptomatic people, it could include avoiding larger gatherings of people, and should definitely include practicing excellent epidemic hygiene, like frequent hand washing and breaking habits of face-touching.”