The pandemic presents new challenges for the LGBTQ community

The pandemic presents new challenges for the LGBTQ community

COVID-19 has reached every country around the globe and numbers continue to grow every day. Research by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation (HRCF) found that people who identify as LGBTQ are more likely to be employed in highly affected industries like restaurant and food services, hospitals, education and retail — all of which have seen more exposure to COVID-19.

Dr. Zachary LaMaster practices family medicine with a specialty in LGBTQ health at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago. He often sees accessibility to be a major hurdle for his patients living through this pandemic.

“When an LGBTQ+ person walks into a doctor’s office, they don’t know how comfortable the provider is with their needs or if the provider has any biases towards their community,” says Dr. LaMaster. “Without knowing this, they may avoid going in for medical care after developing symptoms of COVID-19 which could put their lives at risk.”

With access to medical care being crucial in many COVID-19 cases, the concern of not being properly cared for by a doctor based on their status or not seeing a doctor at all puts the LGBTQ community at a serious disadvantage. In addition, they often battle other chronic illnesses and diseases that compromise the immune system at much higher rates.

The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are respiratory, putting LGBTQ individuals at higher risk with data showing that LGBTQ adults have respiratory issues like asthma at a rate of 21% compared to 14% of non-LGBTQ adults. They are also more likely to smoke than the general population.

Dr. Jack York, a resident on Dr. LaMaster’s medical team, has found that as the pandemic has been added to these existing health issues, it has brought on new fears.

“I’ve seen a much greater concern, especially for those living with a diagnosis of HIV,” says Dr. York. “An HIV diagnosis carries certain health risks even when managed with medication, and now with a global pandemic – it really weighs on these patients.”

As the LGBTQ community continues to address inequalities causing the many health care inequities they face, Dr. Lamaster believes the approach to addressing these unique health needs must look different than it has in the past.

“Some people’s lifestyles can be very different than a provider and may cause them to appear shocked which can make a person clam up and not want to share anything more,” Dr. LaMaster says. “But what I try to do is enter every patient encounter with an open mind and the idea that I really do want to know as much about my patient as they are comfortable telling me because that helps me help them live their healthiest lives.”

You can visit the Advocate Aurora Health LGBTQ Health page where we provide health care resources to address the unique needs of the communities we serve. There you will find a list of Illinois LGBTQ providers and Wisconsin LGBTQ providers who are trained in LGBTQ health and who exhibit cultural awareness.

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About the Author

Toya Campbell
Toya Campbell

Latoya Campbell, health enews contributor, is a Public Affairs Coordinator at Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care. She has a BS degree in Communications/Broadcast Journalism from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and previously worked in digital and graphic marketing for a public library. She enjoys spending time with her family and friends, fitness activities and a good spa day.