Over 100 organizations have signed onto an open letter, directed at health officials and journalists, raising awareness that the LGBTQ population is particularly vulnerable to the global coronavirus pandemic.
The letter notes LGBTQ people are at increased risk for three primary reasons: Higher rates of smoking than their cishet counterparts, higher rates of HIV and cancer, and anti-LGBTQ discrimination that results in individuals avoiding seeking medical care.
COVID-19 is a respiratory illness, making it more dangerous for smokers. It is also more threatening to those with compromised immune systems, as well as the elderly.
The letter also points out that LGBTQ seniors "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."
"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," the letter reads.
“As the media and health communities are pushed into overdrive about COVID-19, we need to make sure the most vulnerable among us are not forgotten. Our smoking rates alone make us extremely vulnerable and our access to care barriers only make a bad situation worse,” said Dr. Scout, the Deputy Director for the National LGBT Cancer Network, in a statement. “This letter outlines simple steps to ensure no population is further stigmatized by a virus.”
A drive-thru coronavirus testing center in Denver.
“As an organization dedicated to the health and well-being of LGBTQ communities, we urge LGBTQ individuals to practice measures recommended by public health experts, such as frequent handwashing, to prevent the spread of this virus,” said GLMA President Scott Nass, MD, MPA.
“At the same time, like our colleagues who joined the open letter, we call on public health officials to ensure the LGBTQ community is considered and included in the public health response to COVID-19 based on potential risk factors that exist in our community.”
The original signers of the letter include the National LGBT Cancer Network, LMA: Health Professionals Advancing LGBTQ Equality, Whitman-Walker Health, SAGE, the New York Transgender Advocacy Group, and the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance.
The full letter, which includes a number of recommendations, including providing messaging that highlights the increased risk to vulnerable groups and ensuring resources reach those most effected, can be read in full here.