Along with over 170 state, local and national organizations across the U.S., Corktown Health Center and Unified HIV Health and Beyond have signed two open letters to policymakers to address LGBTQ-specific new coronavirus concerns. These moves were initiated by a coalition of six organizations: The National LGBT Cancer Network, GLMA Health Professionals Advancing LGBTQ Equality, Whitman-Walker Health, SAGE, New York Transgender Advocacy Group and National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance.
Each letter addressed vulnerabilities among LGBTQ people that could make them especially susceptible to COVID-19 and emphasized the value of health care equity. The Center’s Chief Operating Officer Teresa Roscoe echoed those concerns in a statement.
“There are many things to be concerned about while we live with the coronavirus’ impact on our lives. Equitable and affirming health care should never be among those concerns,” Roscoe said. “As a signer on both letters urging attention to the higher risk factors LGBTQ+ individuals face in this pandemic, Corktown Health Center stands with our partners and allies across the nation in addressing health disparities while we continue to deliver vital health care services.”
The first letter of the two explicitly lists three factors that contribute to LGBTQ peoples’ increased vulnerability.
- “The LGBTQ+ population uses tobacco at rates that are 50 percent 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.”
To combat this, the letter goes on to provide examples of ways to ensure that COVID-19’s impact on LGBTQ people is lessened like by increasing health messaging that is “tailored to communities at increased risk,” providing information on welcoming providers and more.
The second letter delves further into the issue, and it calls for policymakers to act on four main points: taking a clear stand on ending health care discrimination, actively listening to LGBTQ organizations’ concerns about need, including sexual orientation and gender identity in data collection and reporting, and ensuring that government aid programs respond to communities that have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.
To learn more about each letter and each of the organizations that signed them visit the National LGBT Cancer Network.