CDC Releases Report Confirming Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual People at Greater Risk of COVID-19 Illness, Calls for More Data Collection

by Aryn Fields

Today, the Human Rights Campaign responded to a report issued today by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention detailing the underlying health conditions that increase the risk of contracting severe COVID-19 are more prevalent among sexual minorities than heterosexual individuals. HRC’s own analysis of the same datasets show similar risks among transgender people. The CDC also called for more data collection on sexual orientation and gender identity in order to improve knowledge about health disparities

This report affirms what LGBTQ advocates and organizations have known all along: that our community is at greater risk and disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 health crisis. It is critical that health disparities in marginalized communities are fully captured by government data collection so they can be swiftly addressed. The Trump administration failed to acknowledge the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on LGBTQ people; it is most welcome that the Biden administration is not politicizing our community's health and instead is addressing the realities we are facing.

This study is only the first step. We look forward to more research on the risks for transgender people and people living with HIV, who also share higher risk factors.”

Alphonso David, President, Human Rights Campaign

Yesterday, the Journal of the American Medical Association published research showing a connection between people living with HIV and increased hospitalization and death rates among New York State residents. We have yet to see national data on the impact of COVID-19 on people living with HIV.

At the beginning of the pandemic, in March 2020, HRC issued a research brief, “The Lives and Livelihoods of Many in the LGBTQ Community are at Risk Amidst COVID-19 Crisis,” that outlined the elevated health and economic risks LGBTQ people face during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many in the LGBTQ community are particularly vulnerable, as they are less likely to have health coverage and are more likely to smoke or have a chronic illness like asthma. Those predictions are confirmed in this new CDC report.

HRC’s 2020 research supports the CDC’s findings and shows similar findings for transgender people. Key statistics from that report note the unique susceptibility of the LGBTQ community to COVID-19.

  • 37% of LGBTQ adult smokers smoke every day compared to 27% of non-LGBTQ people.
  • 21% of LGBTQ adults have had asthma, compared to 14% of non-LGBTQ people.
  • One in five LGBTQ adults aged 50 and above have diabetes.
  • 17% of LGBTQ adults do not have any kind of health insurance coverage, compared to 12% of non-LGBTQ adults.

Subsequent research briefs, conducted in partnership with PSB Research, also found that LGBTQ people have been disproportionately impacted economically by the COVID-19 crisis. They are more likely than the general population to have experienced a cut in work hours, with more than half of transgender and transgender people of color lost work hours, while one in five became unemployed. Those reports can be found here.

The Human Rights Campaign has long called for inclusive data collection to ensure that all people are accurately counted. HRC’s “Blueprint for Positive Change,” includes a call for the Biden administration to establish uniform data collection standards that incorporate sexual orientation and gender identity into federal surveys, and HRC has signed on to several coalition letters calling for the same.

HRC also released a report in 2019, “LGBTQ-Inclusive Data Collection: A Lifesaving Imperative,which revealed how the failure of state and federal officials to collect full and accurate data on sexual orientation and gender identity is causing harm to LGBTQ Americans, who remain largely invisible to the government entities entrusted with ensuring their health, safety and well-being.

Find a full list of all of HRC’s efforts and COVID-19 resources at this link.

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