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Harris, Robinson to talk intersection of COVID-19, HIV epidemic, marginalization
2020-05-13

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CHICAGO, IL — Illinois House Majority Leader Greg Harris and State Rep. Lamont J. Robinson will headline a public online conversation this Friday surrounding the intersections of COVID-19 and the HIV epidemic, two diseases that create unique risks for some of Chicago's communities.

The COVID-19 pandemic presents particular challenges to LGBTQ+ communities, people living with or who are most vulnerable to HIV, and to people of color, and is further exacerbated at the intersection of those populations in Chicago, the state of Illinois, and around the globe.

"Before the current coronavirus pandemic, we were seeing elevated rates of HIV transmission among Black youth," said Rep. Robinson. "Now, we are seeing elevated cases of COVID-19 among Black Chicagoans. In both cases, we are not adequately providing the information and resources to this at risk population."

To continue a dialogue on these issues, Chicago House and Social Service Agency will host its third public video forum about "The Intersection of COVID-19, the HIV Epidemic, and LGBTQ+ Marginalization: Reflections, Lessons, and Next Steps" on Friday, May 15 at 11:00 AM CDT. This will be the latest of a multi-part roundtable series addressing the unique impacts of COVID-19 on individuals living with or most vulnerable to HIV and the LGBTQ+ communities.

Join on Zoom as Illinois leaders elevate a critical conversation regarding the effects of COVID-19 on LGBTQ+ communities and those living with or most vulnerable to HIV. Moderated by Chicago Reader publisher Tracy Baim, the discussion will address the health and resource disparities among Illinois' LGBTQ+ communities, how those disparities are intensified by this pandemic, and how this crisis affects the collective efforts of the state's direct service organizations to eradicate new HIV transmissions through the statewide Getting To Zero plan.

In addition to Illinois House members Harris, the state's highest ranking LGBTQ official, and Robinson, the legislature's first Black LGBTQ member, the round table discussion will include Brave Space Alliance Founder and Executive Director LaSaia Wade, and Chicago House CEO Michael Herman. The public is invited to register to attend the video forum on Zoom at www.chicagohouse.org/may-15. The forum can also be viewed via Facebook Live on Chicago House's Facebook page.

"In the early 1980s, there was a radical ignorance among many officials and the general public of HIV/AIDS, and the issue was just stuck in the corner. Luckily, that level of ignorance around COVID-19 has not come into play today," Herman said. "However, as with the HIV epidemic, the challenge going forward as we allocate resources and move toward a cure for COVID-19 is to ensure that marginalized communities, especially communities of color, are not left behind."

Coupled with existing disparities in healthcare among the LGBTQ+ community, and especially in communities of color, data shows that the impact of COVID-19 is disproportionately felt in the most marginalized populations in Chicago and across Illinois. Black Chicagoans make up about 30% of the city's population but have made up nearly half of Chicago's COVID-19 deaths. Latinx individuals account for more new statewide positive COVID-19 diagnoses than any other demographic1. Individuals experiencing homelessness are far more likely to be hospitalized or require critical care because of COVID-19—and are at much higher risk of dying of COVID-19—than stably housed individuals, further amplifying the pandemic's effects among the city's most vulnerable residents.

"I lived through the HIV epidemic and saw discrimination, scapegoating, and failure of government response first-hand. Now we see it again during the COVID-19 pandemic, and there are many lessons to be learned" said Rep. Harris.

This public conversation serves as part three of an ongoing series that includes leadership from government, non-profit organizations, and members of the Chicagoland community. The first two conversations can be viewed at tinyurl.com/covid19chicagopanel .

As the country continues to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important that everyone unites and creates conversations among leaders from around the state to address reflections and lessons before, during, and after the COVID-19 pandemic. These conversations will raise awareness surrounding health disparities society faces and inform next steps that influence health outcomes, life expectancy, and the statewide Getting to Zero plan.

Brave Space Alliance is a Black-led, trans-led LGBTQ Center located on the South Side of Chicago, dedicated to creating and providing affirming, culturally competent, for-us by-us resources, programming, and services for LGBTQ individuals on the South and West sides of the city. Chicago House & Social Service Agency supports those living with or most vulnerable to HIV/AIDS by offering housing, health, and employment services and a TransLife Care program.

—From a press release


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