Gay and bisexual people are more at risk for severe COVID-19, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The study, released Friday in the federal institute's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, drew data from the 2017 to 2019 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS), which showed that members of sexual minority groups were more prone to risk factors that led to worse outcomes from contracting the novel coronavirus.
These risk factors include asthma, stroke, kidney disease, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, obesity, smoking, diabetes, and hypertension.
Additionally, studies show LGBTQ+ people, like other marginalized groups, face greater risks of unemployment and housing discrimination, higher rates of substance abuse, and greater obstacles to medical care access, which all lead to poorer health outcomes. LGBTQ+ Americans are also more likely than others to work in industries affected by the crisis — restaurants and food service, hospitals, K-12 education, colleges and universities, and retail.
The BRFSS data was self-reported, and the number of transgender and nonbinary respondents to the survey was "too small for reliable estimates," the report noted. In its summary, the agency admitted that the country's COVID-19 surveillance systems "lack information on sexual orientation, hampering examination of COVID-19–associated disparities among sexual minority adults."
In response to the report, Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, called for federal and state data collection on how the pandemic has impacted the LGBTQ+ community. This, in turn, would inform a government response and allocation of resources to address the crisis.
"This report affirms what LGBTQ advocates and organizations have known all along: that our community is at greater risk and disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 health crisis," David stated in a press release. "It is critical that health disparities in marginalized communities are fully captured by government data collection so they can be swiftly addressed.
"The Trump administration failed to acknowledge the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on LGBTQ people; it is most welcome that the Biden administration is not politicizing our community's health and instead is addressing the realities we are facing. This study is only the first step. We look forward to more research on the risks for transgender people and people living with HIV, who also share higher risk factors.”