One hundred and seventy national, state and local LGBTQ+ and allied organizations have joined in a second open letter to health and policy leaders highlighting the importance of measures to prohibit discrimination in COVID-19 treatment and prevention, and clear communication of those measures and policies to better serve the health needs of marginalized communities with histories of discriminatory encounters with the medical and public health systems.
The letter also urges medical providers and public health authorities to collect sexual orientation and gender identity data for COVID-19 cases in addition to data on race, ethnicity, age, sex and disability, in order to document and address the pandemic’s impact on minority communities. The signing organizations also emphasize the urgent need for more robust relief for lower-income individuals and families, and for persons who are dependent on lower-paying jobs in hospitality and other industries which are being decimated by the pandemic.
“We are in the middle of an unprecedented global health crisis – and we cannot afford to leave anyone behind,” said Rep. Barbara Lee, Vice Chair of the Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus. “As our work continues to get families and communities the resources they need to survive, we must ensure that protecting LGBTQ+ communities is a core part of our country’s response to COVID-19. Ensuring non-discrimination has and always will be a priority for me, and I will continue to work with my colleagues to make that a reality.”
“LGBTQ people have increased risk factors for COVID-19, including higher HIV and cancer rates, higher rates of smoking, and increased risk of homelessness,” said Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), who serves as Chair of the California Legislative LGBTQ Caucus and recently led a letter urging data collection. “We must ensure that the LGBTQ community has access to the resources it needs to face this pandemic, including quality, non-judgmental, and affordable healthcare, as well as unemployment benefits for every impacted industry, including the service and entertainment sectors. We also must collect data to understand how the LGBTQ+ community is being impacted by COVID-19.”
“Whitman-Walker and other community health centers that care for LGBTQ+ patients and others in marginalized communities have many patients who are understandably fearful of neglect or mistreatment in this pandemic,” said Laura Durso, PhD, Chief Learning Officer of the Whitman-Walker Institute. “Many of our patients work in lower-paying jobs that are particularly vulnerable in this crisis. We are committed to protecting those who are bearing the brunt of the pandemic’s economic devastation.”
“Early surveillance has shown how health disparities create very different outcomes for vulnerable populations,” notes Scout, PhD, the Deputy Director of the National LGBT Cancer Network, “which shows us how important it is to add LGBTQ data collection to COVID-19 surveillance.”
These organizations call on public health authorities, medical providers and government agencies to reinforce safeguards against discrimination; to foster collaborative relationships with LGBTQ+ service providers and advocates; to collect important data on patients, including sexual orientation and gender identity; and to expand the economic relief and legal protections needed by individuals and families particularly hard-hit by the pandemic.
The letter was initiated by a coalition of six organizations: The Whitman-Walker Institute; the National LGBT Cancer Network; GLMA Health Professionals Advancing LGBTQ Equality; SAGE; New York Transgender Advocacy Group; and National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance.
The full letter text, full signer list, and additional organizational response resources can be found online at this link: https://cancer-network.org/coronavirus-2019-lgbtq-info.