For LGBTQ Patients, the Coronavirus Brings New Challenges

Jill Crank, M.S.N., M.P.H., is a nurse practitioner at Johns Hopkins Community Physicians and the John G. Bartlett Specialty Practice. Many of her patients are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. “Even before this pandemic, their ability to access safe, affirming care was difficult,” she says.

Q: Are patients who are LGBTQ at greater risk for getting COVID-19 or dying from it?

LGBTQ patients are more likely than the general population to be smokers, which could compromise their lungs and make it more difficult to recover from a respiratory illness.

And there are some indications that chest binding, which gives the appearance of a flat chest and is often vital for the self-image of trans masculine people, could exacerbate breathing difficulties associated with COVID-19. We encourage people to avoid binding if they are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19.

My patients are also more likely than the general population to be living with HIV, but if they are receiving treatment and have undetectable viral loads with higher CD4 counts, indicating a robust immune system, they are generally not thought to be at increased risk for complications from COVID-19.

With all that said, it’s important to remember that this virus is new and much is not yet known.

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