Spreading hope: LGBT+ people are organizing to fight coronavirus together

LGBT+ people are starting to organize themselves to support each other during the coronavirus pandemic.

HIV organizations and the US’s National LGBT Cancer Network have provided general advice that all LGBT+ people may find useful to manage COVID-19.

Meanwhile an organization called Queercare UK is trying to coordinate other LGBT+ organizations to provide the best support.

Its sign-up form allows organizations to ask for volunteers and also to offer to help people in need.

Inspired by that, Karada House, a queer arts space in Berlin, Germany, has turned its attention to helping LGBT+ people through the pandemic.

Its sign-up form allows vulnerable people who are isolating or may have to isolate to request help with getting food. Moreover, they can also ask for someone to chat with to help their mental health.

It also asks people who can help to offer their services.

Researching how LGBT+ people will manage coronavirus

Meanwhile Queer Voices Heard, a new social enterprise in the UK, is researching how LGBT+ people will respond to COVID-19.

In a brief survey people in the UK can complete here, it asks what changes people will make during the pandemic. And it tries to understand who the community is looking to for leadership.

Moreover, as Prides cancel or postpone, the survey will seek to understand how LGBT+ people will feel about those decisions.

Stu Hosker, co-founder of Queer Voices Heard said: ‘There is always a unique set of circumstances for LGBTQ+ people that general polling agencies just don’t cover. Therefore we will hope this research will help people to understand who needs to respond and how.’

The survey will be live until Wednesday (18 March) with the results available as early as this week.

LGBT+ people at higher risk

The National LGBT Cancer Network in the US says LGBT+ people are particularly at risk for COVID-19 for a variety of reasons.

It says: ‘We use tobacco at rates that are 50% higher than the general population. Coronavirus 2019 is a respiratory illness that has proven particularly harmful to smokers.’

Meanwhile it says LGBT+ people find it harder to get medical care. And because of that, some LGBT+ people will already have poorer health.

Moreover, the network estimates that more than 3million LGBT+ older people are living in the US. They are already less likely than heterosexual and cisgender older people to get help and support.

Because COVID-19 has a higher mortality rate among seniors, this is a ‘huge issue for the LGBTQ+ communities as well,’ the network says.

However, in response the National LGBT Cancer Network’s website has more advice and links to help you find LGBT+ friendly healthcare providers here. It also carries specific advice for people with cancer.

HIV and coronavirus

Meanwhile the network also warns: ‘Higher rates of HIV and cancer among LGBTQ+ individuals mean that a greater number of us may have compromised immunity, leaving us more vulnerable to coronavirus infection.’

However, HIV organizations have already provided positive people with common sense advice to manage COVID-19.

And in the UK, leading HIV organization Terrence Higgins Trust says:

‘There’s currently no evidence that people living with HIV are any more likely to catch COVID-19 than anyone else. You should follow the advice being given to the general population. 

‘If you are on treatment, with an undetectable viral load and a good CD4 count (eg over 400), then there should be no greater risk. 

‘If you’re living with HIV and do not have an undetectable viral load or have a low CD4 count, it will be more important to avoid situations where you may get infected if the virus becomes more widespread.’

However, some HIV positive people are more likely to suffer from other health conditions. And anyone who has cardiovascular disease, cancer, chronic respiratory disease, hypertension, asthma and diabetes appears to be at greater risk from coronavirus.

Protect yourself and others

Meanwhile, you can protect yourself, your loved ones and the wider population by following this general advice:

  • Wash your hands more regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze.
  • Put any used tissues into the bin immediately.
  • Avoid touching your face, particularly your nose, mouth and eyes.
  • Try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell.
  • If you are unwell, avoid contact with others (touching, kissing, hugging and other intimate contact) and check the latest official advice on seeing a doctor or self-isolating.
  • Use hand-sanitizer (with at least 60% alcohol) if it is not possible to wash your hands.
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