Coronavirus poses an increased risk to LGBT+ people for three significant reasons, health chiefs say

LGBT+ people are more vulnerable to coronavirus, hundreds of health organisations have said in an open letter urging governments to act.

“LGBT+ 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 LGBT+ communities are adequately served during this outbreak,” the open letter begins.

The letter, organised by the LGBT National Cancer Network and signed by more than a hundred local and national organisations in the US, outlines three main factors that mean coronavirus poses an increased risk to LGBT+ people.

Coronavirus was confirmed as a pandemic by the World Health Organisation on March 11. Later that day, Donald Trump suspended all travel from Europe – not including the UK – to the US.

The open letter, also sent on March 11, says the three factors that make LGBT+ people more vulnerable to coronavirus are: the prevalence of smoking in the LGBT+ community, higher rates of HIV and cancer, and barriers to healthcare that mean LGBT+ people are reluctant to seek medical treatment.

“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,” said Dr Scout, the deputy director for the National LGBT Cancer Network.

“Our smoking rates alone make us extremely vulnerable and our access to care barriers only make a bad situation worse,” he added.

LGBT+ people use tobacco at a rate 50 per cent higher than the general population and coronavirus is a respiratory disease that has proven particularly harmful to smokers.

Higher rates of HIV and cancer in the LGBT+ community mean a greater number of LGBT+ people have a compromised immune system, which increases vulnerability to coronavirus infection.

And barriers to healthcare for LGBT+ people, which include facing discrimination, unwelcoming attitudes and a lack of understanding from healthcare providers, mean LGBT+ people are reluctant to seek medical care.

“As an organisation dedicated to the health and well-being of LGBT+ communities, we urge LGBT+ individuals to practice measures recommended by public health experts, such as frequent hand washing, to prevent the spread of this virus,” said Scott Nass, president of GLMA, an international organisation of health professionals advancing LGBT+ equality.

“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 letter was initiated by a coalition of six organisations: the National LGBT Cancer Network, GLMA, Whitman-Walker Health, SAGE, New York Transgender Advocacy Group, and the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance.