Everyone is at risk of infection in this pandemic. But history shows that people who are marginalized and consequently experience disparities in health will suffer disproportionately greater harms than the general population.
A real concern for LGBTQ people during the pandemic is that previous experiences of discrimination in healthcare settings and the fear of experiencing discrimination prevent them from seeking needed healthcare. Discrimination in healthcare is never acceptable. During an unprecedented global emergency this is especially true.
With higher rates of chronic disease and risk factors like smoking and vaping, LGBTQ people and people living with HIV (PLWH) should strictly adhere to social distancing guidelines, wearing a mask, and taking care of their health as best they can as we move into the fall and winter months. LGBTQ people and PLWH should continue to monitor themselves for symptoms. If people experience symptoms related to COVID-19, they can use the new COVID Alert PA application, which allows users to report symptoms and also alerts users of areas where there may be a high case count.
People with chronic health conditions, including HIV/AIDS may be at elevated risk of serious complications from COVID-19. Of most concern are PLWH who are not treatment adherent and virally suppressed. In addition to adhering to safety guidelines, PLWH should make every effort to adhere to their treatment regimen by taking their HIV medication daily and engaging in other activities to remain healthy such as, eating well, exercising, and avoiding tobacco and other substances.
This fall and winter, PLWH should ensure that they have at least a 30-day supply of medications, are up to date with a flu shot, and have established a plan for clinical care in person or, if isolated or quarantined, by using telemedicine.
Connie Ticho, the Health Programs Intern at Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center, is an LGBTQ+ advocate with an emphasis on access to care within the community. Kimberly Levitt, MPH, is the Health Programs Manager at Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center and has been working closely on health promotion and outreach campaigns focused on staying healthy during COVID-19.