LOS ANGELES — Equality California Institute launched a statewide bilingual campaign on Tuesday promoting COVID-19 vaccination, testing and safety guidance to LGBTQ+ Californians, in partnership with the California Department of Social Services and The Center at Sierra Health Foundation. The public education and outreach campaign is a continuation of Equality California Institute’s ongoing efforts to connect LGBTQ+ Californians with the resources and support they need to navigate the COVID-19 crisis — including an online Help Center (covid19.eqca.org) and help line (323-448-0126), launched in May 2020. A Spanish-language version of the Help Center will be launched in the coming weeks.
Nearly one year since California entered a State of Emergency to combat COVID-19, research shows that the ongoing global pandemic has had a devastating impact on the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer+ (LGBTQ+) community — especially LGBTQ+ people of color. Last month, a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also confirmed that underlying health disparities faced by LGBTQ+ people are leave the community particularly vulnerable to the virus.
“We’ve made a lot of progress, and certainly I’m hopeful that we’re seeing light at the end of the tunnel with increased availability of vaccines, but the fact is the pandemic has had a devastating impact on our LGBTQ+ community,” said Equality California Executive Director Rick Chavez Zbur during a press conference on Tuesday. “Since the crisis began, we’ve been working with Governor Newsom’s administration and our partners in the California Legislature and Congress to ensure LGBTQ+ people have access to the resources they need. Now, we’ll be working with our community-based partners across the state to make sure every LGBTQ+ Californian knows when it’s their turn to be vaccinated, how to sign up for an appointment and the importance of getting vaccinated — so we can get our kids back in the classroom, reopen our economy and protect the most vulnerable members of our community.”
“COVID-19 health disparities we witness among LGBTQ+ communities, especially intersecting with immigrant communities, and Black, Indigenous and all communities of color, are not new,” said Jorge Roman, Director of Clinical Services at San Francisco AIDS Foundation. “It is of paramount importance that we eliminate these health inequities, end discrimination and stop the marginalization of queer Black and Brown people. To do so, we must work across sectors to address the implications of structural racism and economic inequality, and to mitigate the effects of stigma still felt by people living with HIV. We must reach the hardly reached, name the unnamed and build specialized pathways for people with experiences of trauma so that they come inside for help. It should not take another global pandemic for health care professionals to understand that this is the work.”
A recent study from the Williams Institute found that LGBTQ+ people of color are twice as likely to test positive for COVID-19 than their non-LGBTQ+ white peers.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted underlying social inequalities that need to be remedied in order to promote long-term health for LGBTQ people, particularly LGBTQ people of color,” said Kerith J. Conron, ScD, MPH, Blachford-Cooper Distinguished Scholar and Research Director at the Williams Institute.
LGBTQ+ people face higher rates of comorbidities such as HIV and cancer, are more likely to use tobacco products, are less likely to have health insurance and less likely to access care when they are sick out of fear of discrimination. Members of the LGBTQ+ community are also overrepresented in the industries hit hardest by economic fallout, such as the food services and hospitality industries and the gig economy. And LGBTQ+ elders already faced isolation and were less likely to reach out for support before the crisis began.
Dr. Ian McLachlan, MD, MPH, is an emergency medicine physician at Kaiser Permanente’s San Francisco Medical Center. Dr. McLachlan has been deeply involved Kaiser Permanente’s COVID-19 response, with a particular focus on promoting equity in the response. He is currently working at San Francisco’s mass vaccination site at Moscone Center.
“Trust and inclusion has been a huge, important issue for every frontline worker,” said Dr. McLachlan. “Next year will be the 40th anniversary since the definition of AIDS, and American healthcare looks totally different than it did 40 years ago — doctors older than myself will tell you that one of the biggest differences is diversity, and that diversity has already paid dividends.”
Equality California Institute’s new campaign will include direct outreach to LGBTQ+ Californians via email, text message and mail, as well as virtual town hall events, social media outreach and engagement in coordination with local community-based partner organizations. Equality California Institute’s online COVID-19 Help Center is available to LGBTQ+ Californians at covid19.eqca.org. Members of the LGBTQ+ community can receive direct support finding available vaccination and testing sites and accessing other resources via Equality California Institute’s help line by calling 323-448-0126.
Equality California is the nation’s largest statewide LGBTQ civil rights organization. We bring the voices of LGBTQ people and allies to institutions of power in California and across the United States, striving to create a world that is healthy, just, and fully equal for all LGBTQ people. We advance civil rights and social justice by inspiring, advocating and mobilizing through an inclusive movement that works tirelessly on behalf of those we serve. www.eqca.org