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  WINDY CITY TIMES

IL Lt. Gov, Comptroller online roundtable: COVID-19, HIV epidemic, LGBTQ+ marginalization
2020-04-21

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CHICAGO, IL — The COVID-19 pandemic presents unique challenges to LGBTQ+ communities, people living with or 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.

To begin addressing this critical topic, Chicago House and Social Service Agency is hosting a public forum titled "The Intersection of COVID-19, the HIV Epidemic, and LGBTQ+ Marginalization: Reflections, Lessons, and Next Steps," on Friday, April 24 at 11:00 AM CDT.

Join Illinois leaders for a critical conversation conducted on a video platform regarding the effects of COVID-19 on LGBTQ+ communities and those living with or most vulnerable to HIV. Moderated by The Reader publisher Tracy Baim, the discussion will address the health disparities among different communities, how those disparities are intensified by this pandemic, and how this crisis affects the collective efforts for the state's Getting to Zero plan for new HIV infections.

The roundtable discussion will include Illinois Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton, Illinois State Comptroller Susana Mendoza, Chicago House CEO Michael Herman, and Brave Space Alliance Founder and Executive Director LaSaia Wade.

The public is invited to register to attend the forum at www.chicagohouse.org/april24. The forum can also be viewed through Chicago House's Facebook page.

The institutions and advocates for LGBTQ+ communities, people living with or most vulnerable to HIV, and people of color say the daily challenges these populations face have worsened due to the pandemic.

"As a housing-first organization that has been active in some of Chicago's most vulnerable communities for the past 35 years, Chicago House primarily serves individuals living with or vulnerable to HIV/AIDS, the majority of whom enter into our services without stable housing," said Chicago House CEO Michael Herman. "We are now seeing that these same individuals are disproportionately affected by COVID-19. Our clients need regular access to resources like stable housing, transportation to access food and health services every day, and COVID-19 only magnifies these needs."

Individuals experiencing homelessness are far more likely to be hospitalized or require critical care because of COVID-19—and at much higher risk of dying of COVID-19—than stably housed individuals, due in part to dire lack of access to basic hygiene needs. Coupled with a higher likelihood of immune suppression in individuals living with HIV/AIDS and existing disparities in healthcare among the LGBTQ+ community, and especially in communities of color, the impact of COVID-19 is disproportionately felt in the most marginalized populations in Chicago and across Illinois.

Moderator Tracy Baim, is an award-winning publisher, editor, author, and film producer. Prior to becoming publisher of the Chicago Reader in 2018, she was co-founder, publisher and executive editor of Windy City Times, Chicago's weekly newspaper and website covering the LGBTQ+ community, and is the author of 12 books chronicling the history and personalities impacting the community.

This public conversation serves as part one of a two-part series that will include leadership from government, non-profit organizations, and members of the Chicagoland community. 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.

"The disparities we see in this pandemic are not new. Rather, this pandemic has only magnified the historic inequities that have been rooted in far too many marginalized communities," said Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton. "The dialogue about how we respond to and recover from COVID-19 must be had through an equity lens and be inclusive of those most impacted."

"The COVID-19 virus is causing great uncertainty in communities throughout Illinois. We want to be natural and human and interact with friends and loved ones and instead we have to socially distance ourselves," said Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza. "And that can jeopardize our mental health. As we look to protect our residents, including vulnerable people with compromised immune systems, it's an appropriate time to consider our approach to public health policy and government's role in keeping people safe and able to access affordable health care."

Chicago House and Social Service Agency has been on the forefront of reducing barriers for those affected by HIV/AIDS since the early years of the epidemic. Founded in 1985, Chicago House was the first HIV housing provider in the Midwest. It now serves nearly 3,000 individuals annually through expanded programming designed to holistically support individuals impacted by HIV/AIDS through housing, health, employment services, and the TransLife Care Program.

Brave Space Alliance, the first Black-led, trans-led LGBTQ Center located on the South Side of Chicago, is dedicated to creating and providing affirming, culturally competent resources, programming, and services for LGBTQ individuals on the South and West sides of Chicago. The alliance strives to empower, embolden, and educate each other through mutual aid, knowledge-sharing, and the creation of community-sourced resources as it builds towards the liberation of all oppressed peoples.

—From a press release


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