People who are part of the LGBTQ community may be more vulnerable to getting Covid-19 and may be more susceptible to a severe form of Covid-19, according to a new report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The LGBTQ community experiences more health disparities compared to their straight counterparts, in part due to sexual stigma and discrimination. These health disparities make them more susceptible, a CDC team said in a study published in the agency’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report Thursday.
Data from the 2017-2019 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, the CDC’s national health-related telephone survey, shows people who are a part of the LGBTQ community, regardless of race or ethnicity, report higher numbers of health conditions that make people vulnerable to more severe forms of Covid-19 including heart disease, asthma, high blood pressure, cancer, kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, stroke, obesity, diabetes and smoking.
“Because of longstanding social inequities and higher prevalence of several underlying health conditions, sexual minority populations might be vulnerable to COVID-19 acquisition and associated severe outcomes, and this vulnerability might be magnified when coupled with other demographic characteristics such as race/ethnicity,” the report said.
But there is a data gap and much is unknown, the CDC said. Sexual orientation and gender identity information is not consistently captured by standard Covid-19 data collection system. A handful of states did start collecting this information, although it was several months into the pandemic.
In July, California announced it would collect data on sexual orientation and gender identity to better understand the impact of the pandemic on these populations. Illinois also started to collect this information. Pennsylvania, Washington, DC and several other jurisdictions are taking steps to collect this information, the report said, but the data is not yet available.
The CDC encouraged all jurisdictions to collect information on sexual orientation and gender identity during the pandemic.
Health care access is also a problem for the community during the pandemic. A study of the LGBTQ community in Chicago found that the community had lower rates of primary care access and used telehealth for mental health services less often than people in the straight community.
A lack of cultural responsiveness among health care professionals has helped perpetuate health disparities, another study found. Mental health services for LGBTQ teens were also much more limited, with closing of schools according to another study.
The economic insecurity that has come with the pandemic, which has also disproportionately impacted parts of the community, further compromises people’s health and access to care.
“Attention to potentially larger disparities at the intersections of sexual orientation and race/ethnicity is critical to ensuring health equity for all, including subpopulations whose circumstances often remain uncaptured despite acknowledgements of their distinct importance and needs,” the report said.