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LGBTQ+, allied groups issue second open letter on Covid-19 discrimination
2020-04-21

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Washington, DC — 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 know that COVID-19 has dramatically impacted the lives of LGBT elders and are hearing reports of food insecurity, health concerns, and increased challenges concerning isolation. Given the heightened risk older LGBT people are facing, it is crucial that they are protected from the added threat of discrimination," said SAGE CEO Michael Adams. "We call on our elected officials to demonstrate their support by providing our community with the necessary protections we all deserve."

"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.

About SAGE

SAGE is the country's largest and oldest organization dedicated to improving the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender ( LGBT ) older people. Founded in 1978 and headquartered in New York City, SAGE is a national organization that offers supportive services and consumer resources to LGBT older people and their caregivers. SAGE also advocates for public policy changes that address the needs of LGBT elders, provides education and technical assistance for aging providers and LGBT community organizations through its National Resource Center on LGBT Aging, and cultural competency training through SAGECare. With staff located across the country, SAGE also coordinates SAGENet, a growing network of affiliates in the United States. Learn more at sageusa.org .

About the National LGBT Cancer Network

The National LGBT Cancer Network runs a CDC funded public health network focused on eliminating tobacco and cancer health disparities. Due to the disproportionate impact COVID-19 will have on our population as a result of increased smoking and cancer rates, the Network has been actively creating resources for LGBTQ+ organizations to help respond to this unprecedented public health crisis. Learn more at cancer-network.org .

About Whitman-Walker

Whitman-Walker operates a community-centered enterprise that provides primary medical care, behavioral health care, dental care, and a range of health-related legal and support services, with specialties in LGBTQ+ and HIV care, to more than 20,000 individuals and families annually in the greater Washington, DC metropolitan region. The Whitman-Walker Institute was established to support the needs of our patients, and the communities at the heart of our mission, with clinical and behavioral health research, public policy advocacy on the national, regional and local levels, and clinical and community education. Learn more at www.whitman-walker.org .

—From a press release


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