More than 100 LGBTQ or LGBTQ supportive organizations on March 11 released a joint open letter to health care providers and media outlets urging them to be aware that LGBTQ people may be at greater risk for the Coronavirus than the general public.
D.C.’s Whitman-Walker Health is part of a coalition of six organizations that initiated the letter, according to a statement released by the groups.
Other groups making up the coalition include the National LGBT Cancer Network, Health Professionals Advancing LGBTQ Equality; the LGBTQ senior’s advocacy group SAGE, the New York Transgender Advocacy Group, and the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance.
“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,” the letter states.
“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 letter says.
“Our increased vulnerability is a direct result of three factors,” the letter continues. “The LGBTQ+ population uses tobacco at rates that are 50 percent higher than the general population,” it says, adding, “COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that has proven particularly harmful to smokers.”
The letter notes that the LGBTQ+ population also 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.”
A third factor making LGBTQ people more vulnerable to the newly discovered virus, the letter claims, is LGBTQ people “continue to experience discrimination, unwelcoming attitudes, and lack of understanding from providers and staff in many health care settings.” As a result, the statement adds, “many are reluctant to seek medical care except in situations that feel urgent – and perhaps not even then.”
The letter recommends that media outlets report on particular vulnerabilities of “any person” with a pre-existing respiratory illness, compromised immune system, or who uses tobacco products. It calls for providing LGBTQ+ individuals with “resource to find welcoming providers” if they are experiencing symptoms like a cough or fever and need to seek medical attention.
The full text of the joint letter and additional information on how LGBTQ people may be impacted by the Coronavirus can be found at cancer-network.org/coronavirus.