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This information is retrieved from the National LGBT Cancer Network on 4/11

The National LGBT Cancer Network is aware that LGBTQ+ people are worried about the potential impact of coronavirus.

Special note: We strongly recommend you follow the CDC guideline for wearing a cloth mask anytime you go out of your house and see people.

Why are LGBTQ+ people at particular risk for Coronavirus 2019? 

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, plus (LGBTQ+) people are at particular risk for coronavirus disease 2019 (or COVID-19) as a result of several factors: 

We use tobacco at rates that are 50% higher than the general population. Coronavirus 2019 is a respiratory illness that has proven particularly harmful to smokers. 

Higher rates of HIV and cancer among LGBTQ+ individuals mean that a greater number of us may have compromised immunity, leaving us more vulnerable to Coronavirus infection.

LGBTQ+ people experience health disparities. Health disparities affect the potential Coronavirus 2019 impact on us in two ways: 

  1. Access to care barriers leaves us less likely to get medical care, and

  2. Existing health disparities mean more of us live in a state of compromised health. 


In addition, there are more than 3 million LGBTQ+ older people living in the United States. LGBTQ+ elders are already less likely than their heterosexual and cisgender peers to reach out to health and aging providers, like senior centers, meal programs, and other programs designed to ensure their health and wellness, because they fear discrimination and harassment. The devastating impact of COVID-19 on older people – new estimates show symptomatic people over 60 are 5x more likely to die compared to younger adults – makes this a huge issue for the LGBTQ+ communities as well.

What can I do to avoid getting this coronavirus?

There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19. There is currently no evidence that taking medications is effective in preventing coronavirus transmission.

We should all keep physically distant (at least 6 feet) from people you don’t live with. Most people also are under “shelter in place” orders. The more we are able to stay at home at this time, the more we will slow the spread of this virus.

  • Wear a cloth face mask

  • Clean your own hands frequently. If you use soap and water, wash your hands for at least 20 seconds. If you use hand sanitizer, make sure it is at least 60% alcohol and covers the entire surfaces of your hands, rubbing until they feel dry.

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, mouth

  • Do not share personal items, including drinking glasses, cups or towels.

  • Disinfect high touch surfaces.

Coronavirus does not get into our body through our skin, it gets into our body through  mucous membranes. The most common route of transmission is from the hands (which touch the infected surface) to the mucous membranes on our faces. One study of medical students showed they touched their faces on average 23 times every hour. While we cannot always control our exposure to the virus, we can control the behaviors that make it easier for this virus to get into our bodies. 

  1. Every time we wash our hands correctly, we kill any Coronavirus on our hands. This includes washing for at least 20 seconds with any type of soap, being sure to get all hand surfaces scrubbed. If soap is not available hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol will also work. 

  2. When we stop touching our face with our hands, we also interrupt the highway of transmission. It is thought that we touch our faces so often as a way to comfort ourselves. Start practicing changing this pattern now, it will help you avoid not just COVID-19, but many other common viral infections as well. Even something as simple as using a tissue to touch our face instead of our fingers can stop this transmission vector.

  3. A face mask is only recommended if you are ill, it is not effective in protecting you from becoming ill. 


Are there special precautions that LGBTQ+ people should take?

This is a time where widespread community response can slow transmission. As an LGBTQ+ person, the faster you take steps to reduce your potential transmission of the virus, the more community members (and others) you will help. These steps include:

These steps include: 

  • social distancing, 

  • avoiding touching common surfaces, 

  • frequent hand washing, 

  • avoiding or at least reducing the number of times you touch your face. 

All smokers should know they can access free cessation services by calling or visiting 1-800-QUIT NOW


What should I do if I think I may have this coronavirus?

If you do not have a health provider you are comfortable with, there are several options for finding LGBTQ+ welcoming providers. 

  • GLMA has a directory of welcoming providers here

  • Human Rights Campaign lists welcoming hospitals and medical centers here

  • Federal Qualified Health Centers have been receiving guidance on how to be LGBTQ+ welcoming (and offer care for low income/uninsured persons). Find a local one here

  • The National LGBT Cancer Network has online directories for welcoming cancer screening and care providers. Find them here and here


Contact your oncologist or health provider if you have a fever and respiratory problems (such as a dry cough or trouble breathing. 

If you must travel outside your home, remember:

  • Wear a cloth face mask.

  • Clean your own hands frequently. If you use soap and water, wash your hands for at least 20 seconds. If you use hand sanitizer, make sure it is at least 60% alcohol and covers the entire surfaces of your hands, rubbing until they feel dry.

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, mouth

  • Do not share personal items, including drinking glasses, cups or towels.

  • Disinfect high touch surfaces.


Fighting Social Isolation

This is a great time to reach out to friends and family, and anyone you think may be alone. And if you’re feeling lonely or isolated, don’t worry about bothering other people – reach out!

If you’re under 65 and feeling well, reach out to someone who may be older and/or have immune compromise (such as on-going cancer treatment, HIV infection, or autoimmune disease) to see if you can do a shopping run or some other errand for them.


Background on Coronavirus 2019

Coronavirus disease 2019 (or COVID-19) is a respiratory illness caused by a novel (or new) coronavirus that was first identified in an outbreak in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. It is a respiratory illness that spreads from person to person through small droplets expelled when a person coughs or sneezes. 

Symptoms can range from mild to severe. They usually include a fever, dry cough, and shortness of breath. Currently there is an estimated symptomatic fatality rate of 1.4% for people with COVID-19; it is highest for men, people over 60, and smokers. We have no information what the fatality rate might be for people with HIV or other immunosuppressed individuals, like those undergoing cancer care.






We are grateful to Dr. Don Dizon, MD, FACP, FASCO, and William Jesdale for co-authoring this page, and providing our communities with updated information on COVID-19. 

Dr. Don Dizon, MD, FACP, FASCO is an oncologist who specializes in women’s cancers. He is the director of women’s cancers at Lifespan Cancer Institute and director of medical oncology at Rhode Island Hospital. 

William Jesdale, PhD is an epidemiologist with Massachusetts Medical School who is particularly interested in LGBTQ health and BRFSS data. Dr. Jesdale mentors doctoral students and teaches courses in Epidemiology in the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. 

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