By Michael Gill, Co-chair of our LGBTQ+ staff network Spectrum
I was pleaed to be asked to contribute to Men’s Health Week and this year’s theme of the COVID 19 outbreak as this is so important to the LGBTQ+ community.
The LGBTQ+ community already faces health inequalities without a global pandemic and, because of this, some parts of the community may be at greater risk from developing servere symptoms and potentially experiencing higher mortality rates.
Here are some of the ways gay, bi, trans and queer+ people can be disproportionately affected by the outbreak that you may not have considered:
Gay men make up the largest population of people living with HIV. Most men will be managing their condition with treatment and have an undetectable viral load and good CD4 count (a check on how healthy your immune system is). However others may have a low CD4 count and a high viral load, meaning they are more at risk from opportunistic infections like COVID 19. Their weakened immune system means they will fall into the category of people who were advised to shield during lockdown.
Some trans men bind their chests to give them a flatter appearance if they have not had top surgery. This has led to concerns for these people as the process of binding also restricts breathing. If these men contract the virus this could accelerate their symptoms.
Trans health care and gender affirming treatment
The LGBT Foundation claimed trans men have reported being denied access to prescribed and scheduled hormone injections. This is because their treatment is not considered to be ‘essential’, even though this is contrary to the WHO guidence which classfies injectable medications for ongoing medical conditions as an essentail service. The LGBT Foundation liased with a number of Pride for Pride in Practice Champions for comments and they advised that best practice should be to continue treatment where possible or train patients to self administer medication. However blood screening cannot be delayed and should be conituned. In additon to this gender idenity clinicsd have froazn their waiting lists as well as postponing some services and cancelling gender affirming suguries – this can be extremly upseting for these indivdual as in normal circustances waitng times are extremely long anyway.
Men account for eight in 10 deaths as a result of suicide and the LGBTQ+ community are at a higher risk of developing mental health issues. This is compounded by the fact that many are experincing anxiety as a result of COVID 19, alongside health inequalites that already exist and a freeze on outpatient appointments or diffculty in accessing services. This has created circumstances where GBTQ+ men could be more vulnerable to suicidal ideations or actions.
So, during Men’s Health Week and beyond, it’s vital that men in the GBTQ+ community put their mental and physical wellbeing first, as we continue to fight against this virus that has already affeced so many.