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No, LGBTQ people in US haven’t demanded ‘first’ treatment for Covid-19

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“LGBTQ Demanding to Be Treated FIRST for Coronavirus (Because They’re So Disease-Ridden Already),” reads the headline of a 14 March 2020 article on the site Pulpit and Pen.

It’s been shared on Facebook in Nigeria – and tagged as possibly false by the social network’s fact-checking system.

The article refers only to LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer or questioning) groups in the US. And they haven’t demanded priority treatment for Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

Pulpit and Pen’s claim

The Pulpit and Pen article is a mix of objective claims and opinion (which can’t be fact-checked). It uses emotive language, calling LGBTQ people “disease-ridden”, and using quote marks around the word “transgender”.

Despite this, the article’s primary claim, that LGBTQ advocacy groups have demanded to be treated for Covid-19 before other people, can be shown to be false.

Pulpit and Pen quotes a Reuters article from 12 March. This piece reports on an open letter signed by more than 100 LGBTQ rights groups. The letter, headed by medical group GLMA, calls on organisations handling the global coronavirus pandemic to remember “that LGBTQ+ communities are among those who are particularly vulnerable to the negative health effects of this virus”.

But it doesn’t ask for anyone to be given priority treatment.

The letter does make several recommendations, not all of which are specific to members of the LGBTQ community. These include suggestions that media statements are clear about the added risks that Covid-19 presents towards “any person with pre-existing respiratory illnesses, compromised immune systems or who uses tobacco products”, and calls to oppose “xenophobic responses” to the pandemic, which the letter says have largely targeted Asian Americans.

Are LGBTQ people at greater risk from Covid-19?

As Reuters reports, the open letter says groups such as gay and transgender people are often at higher risk of contracting HIV or cancer than their straight, or cisgender, counterparts. These groups are also more likely to avoid seeking healthcare, or be given less effective care due to stigma and discrimination. Yet this information, and the open letter, is addressed specifically at LGBTQ people in the US.

Most of the people living with HIV are found in eastern and southern Africa. The largest population of people being treated for HIV is in South Africa, according to UNAids.

According to HIV charity Avert, transgender women and men who have sex with men are at-risk groups in South Africa, HIV rates are also high in groups such as women, sex workers and orphans. South Africa’s National Cancer Registry does not track data such as sexual orientation, so it is unclear whether cancer rates are also higher for LGBTQ people in South Africa.

The South African National Institute for Communicable Diseases says “the elderly, individuals with co-morbidities and healthcare workers” are at higher risk from Covid-19. A comorbidity is a separate condition which may affect the health of a person with a disease. – Keegan Leech


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