LGBTQ+ people experience health disparities. Barriers to care cause us to be less likely to get medical care; and mean we're more likely to have compromised health in general. Health disparities magnify the impact COVID-19 could have on us.
These are among factors that can increase our risk:
- COVID-19 is a respiratory illness, and LGBTQ+ people smoke tobacco at much higher rates than our heterosexual cisgender peers.
- LGBTQ+ people experience higher rates of HIV and of cancer. This means more of us may have weakened immune systems that can make us more vulnerable to COVID-19.
- LGBTQ+ people regularly experience discrimination and lack of cultural competence when seeking health care. As a result, many avoid or delay seeking health care even in emergency situations.
Our amazing and diverse community also includes over 3 million LGBTQ+ elders here in the US alone. Our LGBTQ+ elders are less likely than other older folks to use health and wellness services like meal programs and senior centers due to anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination and harassment. Since this virus affects older people more severely, this a serious issue for our community.
Are there any special precautions that LGBTQ+ people should take?
LGBTQ+ individuals who have cancer, smoke, are HIV+, are over 65 years old, or who have another health condition should take additional steps to reduce the risk of infection. Anyone who interacts with folks in these categories - that's everybody! - should also take these additional steps:
- Wash your hands frequently.
- Reduce the number of times you touch your face.
- Disinfect high touch areas regularly like doorknobs, light switches, phones and computer keyboards.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Stay away from sick people.
- Avoid large gatherings.
- Smokers can get free cessation services by calling or visiting 1-800-QUIT NOW.
As LGBTQ+ people, we are far too familiar with discrimination and stigma - and with epidemics. We urge everyone involved in the response to COVID-19 - including treatment, education, and media coverage - to take steps to ensure LGBTQ+ communities are equitably served.
What can you do?
- Appropriately serving our communities could include:
- For student journalists, be aware of and include the risks facing individuals with chronic illness, a weakened immune system or who use tobacco, in your media coverage. Similarly, help stop the spread of fear and misinformation by acknowledging and addressing racism, xenophobia and bias directed at Asian and Asian American people and communities.
- For students in health promotion and education, make sure health messaging includes information specifically inclusive of communities at more risk, including LGBTQ+ communities. For example, including imagery of LGBTQ+ people and LGBTQ+ symbols in graphics and educational resources. Help health providers and organizations partner with LGBTQ+ community-based organizations and LGBTQ+ community leaders to get messaging out through channels we trust.
- For students in health professions, help identify welcoming providers and help LGBTQ+ people find them, if they need medical attention. Understand how to provide equal, respectful and safe care to everyone regardless of their race, ethnicity, actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, ability, age, national origin, or immigration status.
- For students studying grant writing, public policy, business and finance, consider and assist in funding efforts for community health and social service resources that are distributed in ways that account for the additional burden anticipated by LGBTQ+ health centers and LGBTQ+ welcoming providers and services.
- For students in research methods and in epidemiology, learn ways to create surveillance efforts that respectfully and accurately capture sexual orientation and gender identity as part of routine demographic data collection.
- For everyone:
- Be sure to help LGBTQ+ health and community leaders, along with all health care providers and community leaders, get timely and accurate information to share with our communities.
- Be aware of and center the most vulnerable members of our LGBTQ+ communities: our elders, Black and brown transgender, nonbinary and gender nonconforming people, bi people, people who are incarcerated or detained, people who are undocumented. Know and practice how to act in solidarity in everyday interactions, and within your area of study. Learn more about why Black LGBTQ/SGL people should be concerned, from the National Black Justice Coalition.
- Asian and Asian American communities are being heavily impacted by racism, xenophobia, misinformation and hate. Know and practice how to act in solidarity in everyday interactions, and within your area of study.
Let's learn from history and not allow any community or individual to be disproportionately affected or stigmatized by a virus.