Advocacy Groups Raise Alarm That LGBT Individuals May Be At Higher Risk From COVID-19

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LGBT activists and organizations are alerting the world to the possibility that various factors may make homosexual, bisexual, and transgender individuals especially susceptible to contracting or suffering complications from the novel coronavirus.

According to The Bay Area Reporter, over 100 organizations sent an open letter to medical groups media outlets stating that LGBT people are at greater risk due to their statistically higher rates of tobacco use, cancer and HIV-infection, and instances of discrimination.

The letter notes that COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus, is particularly harmful to smokers and points to a 2017 study indicating that LGBT people have a 50% higher smoking rate than the national average.

Among the letter’s primary goals is “ensuring that media coverage notes the particular vulnerabilities of any person with pre-existing respiratory illnesses, compromised immune systems or who uses tobacco products. While populations — like LGBTQ+ communities — can be at increased risk, it is important to note the overall state of health that contributes to any person’s increased vulnerability to contracting COVID-19.”

The Bay Area Reporter continues:

Scout, who goes by one name, is a bisexual and trans man who is the deputy director of the National LGBT Cancer Network. That organization took the initiative on drafting the letter, which was released March 11, and gathering co-signers.

Local organizations that signed the letter include Equality California, Horizons Foundation, National Center for Lesbian Rights, the San Francisco LGBT Community Center, and the Transgender Law Center.

“We’re really concerned because we know that whenever there’s a health issue, the pre-loaded issues in our community create an issue for us,” Scout, a Ph.D., told the Bay Area Reporter last week. “We have more social isolation, more smoking. But we know how to offset that. As coronavirus expands so fast, we wanted to let the public health community know we can take steps to avoid another health disparity.”

“We have a lot of community organizations we trust and a lot of government entities we don’t trust — for good reason,” Scout said, noting that the involvement of LGBT organizations in government handling of the coronavirus pandemic would help ensure the community’s safety. “The first step is for community organizations to connect with public health channels to get communicated information out.”

Scout also praised New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) for handling questions from the New York State Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Health & Human Services Network regarding testing.

“Someone asked ‘where will we go to get tested without anti-trans discrimination?’ And the governor was able to say ‘the state is doing the testing and you know we have strong protections, so call me at this number if anyone experiences it,'” Scout said. “That’s the kind of support we need.”

“Other issues of comorbidity — suicide, depression — for all these reasons our lives are complicated with stigma and discrimination,” Scout added, stating that the practice of “social distancing” may be detrimental to the health of LGBT individuals who also tend to experience higher rates of mental illness.

For HIV-positive LGBT people, coronavirus infection is especially dangerous.

“For an HIV patient who is on stable antiretroviral therapy and has a normal CD4 count, their risk may be slightly increased,” Dr. Steve Pergam of the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Division at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center told the Bay Area Reporter. “HIV is a different disease than it was years ago. For people who have a reconstituted immune system because of treatment, I think the risk is not going to be tremendously different.”

Saints, this is all the more reason to pray for these men and women. Like our Lord, we do not rejoice when an individual dies in their sin. Please join me in steadfast prayer and the bold spread of the Gospel to the LGBT community before it is too late.

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