Qmmunity: Health Equity During COVID-19

An intersectional framework to how we live and help others is essential for a healthier, more equitable future

Catch Gina Chavez's nightly livestream for fresh tunes. (Photo by Jacob Weber)

As the coronavirus spreads, another public health threat is exposed: inequity. Indeed, COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, impacts everyone, but among the most at risk are marginalized communities. People experiencing homelessness, communities of color, LGBTQIA folks, and others living at the intersections of marginalized identities are more vulnerable to COVID-19 in myriad ways.

Two weeks ago, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation released a report outlining the unique risks the LGBTQIA community faces during the COVID-19 pandemic. The research brief found LGBTQIA adults are more vulnerable than non-LGBTQIA adults to health risks of the virus, showing that they're "less likely to have health coverage, are more likely to smoke and have asthma, and have a variety of chronic illnesses." Community members are also "more likely to work jobs in highly affected industries, often with more exposure and/or higher economic sensitivity to the COVID-19 crisis" than their straight and cisgender counterparts. Moreover, these health inequities were significantly worse among queer and trans people of color.

What about folks living with HIV/AIDS? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "The risk of serious illness from COVID-19 for people [living] with HIV is not known." Nevertheless, the CDC notes that people living with HIV who are not on antiretroviral therapy are at higher risk for severe illness.

Okay, deep breath, y'all. Do it with me: Breathe in, one, two, three, four. Breathe out, one, two, three, four. My aim here isn't to make us panic any more than most of us already are. Rather, I want to remind us how our actions in the here and now have far-reaching consequences not only for the future but also for our at-risk neighbors. I don't have – nor could there ever be – one, single solution for easing this pandemic's burden on our most vulnerable communities. Eradicating health inequities, which themselves are deeply complex and rooted in intersectional social injustices, requires equally complex and intersectional solutions.

Still, there are places we can start. The big one, of course, is practicing proper social distancing. If you find yourself in the position to donate, consider local nonprofits like AIDS Services of Austin (Vivent Health), which is now offering free, at-home HIV-testing kits in addition to its condom delivery services and pickup and delivery options for its food bank. As a provider of hospice care to Central Texans living with HIV/AIDS, Project Transitions' staff is in need of CDC-compliant face masks, which you can help sew remotely. Donations to volunteer collective Diversidad Sin Fronteras Texas support commissary accounts of asylum-seeking LGBTQIA folks detained in Texas (Venmo: @DSFTX; Paypal: diversidadtexas@gmail.com). Find out who your representatives are and contact them about the change you want enacted in your communities.

As we adapt to the new normal, it's imperative that we adopt an intersectional framework for how we live and for how we help others. Doing so gives us a better shot at achieving not only a healthier future, but a more equitable one as well.

2 To Do

Gina Chavez Livestream The award-winning Latin-infused songstress and Qmmunity fave is bringin' ya all kinds of sonic goodness, including throwback jams, international tunes, new music, and covers live from her home. (Mostly) every night, 8pm. www.fb.com/ginachavezmusic.

Out Youth Virtual Story Time Out Youth Operations & Programs Director Kathryn Gonzales is hosting a nightly virtual story time. LGBTQIA folks of all ages are invited to join via a mobile device, computer, or by calling in. Daily until in-person operations resume, 8pm. www.outyouth.org/storytime.

Want more queer? Visit austinchronicle.com/qmmunity

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Austin LGBTQ, COVID-19, coronavirus, HIV / AIDS services, AIDS Services of Austin, health equity, Project Transitions, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Human Rights Campaign Foundation, Diversidad Sin Fronteras

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