An open letter signed by over 100 LGBTQ or LGBTQ supportive organizations asks media outlets and health care providers to be aware that LGBTQ people have particular vulnerabilities in regard to the coronavirus.
The list of original signers to the open letter include the National LGBT Cancer Network, LGBTQ seniors advocacy group SAGE, New York Transgender Advocacy Group, National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance, GLMA: Health Professionals Advancing LGBTQ Equality and Whitman-Walker Health.
“As the spread of the novel coronavirus a.k.a. COVID-19 increases, many LGBTQ+ people are understandably concerned about how this virus may affect us and our communities,” begins the letter.
“The undersigned want 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.”
The group points to three specific factors that can lead to increased vulnerability for LGBTQ people:
• 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.
• 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.
• 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 also notes that there are more than 3 million LGBTQ seniors in the U.S. Studies have shown queer elders are less likely than heterosexual counterparts to reach out for aid from health and aging providers due to fear of discrimination.
In that COVID-19 has a much higher impact on people over 60, this dynamic becomes heightened during the current coronavirus threat.
The group encourages LGBTQ people to find welcoming health providers if they are experiencing symptoms like fever or coughing.
If you don’t have a medical provider you feel comfortable with, GLMA provides a directory for welcoming providers here.
Additionally, the Human Rights Campaign has a list of LGBTQ-friendly medical centers and hospitals here.
You can read the full letter at cancer-network.org/coronavirus.
The Centers for Disease Control lists several steps to help prevent coronavirus infection here.