This column is the first in an on-going health series from Dr. James Simmons. He will offer useful news and tools to help empower LGBTQ+ readers make informed choices about their health.
Honestly, who would have thought we would live through two pandemics that disproportionately impact the LGBTQ+ community?
It’s easy to draw comparisons between the HIV/AIDS and COVID-19 pandemics.
Today’s disdain for talking about or taking appropriate action against COVID feels eerily similar to yesterday’s disdain for talking about or taking appropriate action against HIV/AIDS.
- Both diseases are caused by RNA viruses and originate from animals.
- Both caused and continue to be massive, global public health issues.
- Both carry a certain measure of stigma, though HIV has the unheralded honor of carrying significantly more stigma even after all these years.
- Both have killed millions worldwide, and continue to kill every day.
But the parallel I fear most is that just like HIV has continued to linger 41 years later, COVID will as well.
- I fear that just like HIV continues to disproportionately impact LGBTQ and Black, Indigenous, Latino, and people of color, COVID will as well.
- I fear that just like government agencies delayed responses, downplayed the impact of disease, and neglected communities impacted by HIV, they will continue to use that playbook with COVID.
Just like in the early days of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, once again it’s incumbent upon our community, though most impacted by dual pandemics, to learn how we can best empower ourselves and improve our health.
How do we do that? Glad you asked.
Here are 3 ways to empower your health right now, and do your part to help COVID-19 and HIV disappear.
- Get tested. That means for HIV and COVID. Status isn’t a stigma. It’s the start of owning your health. Local, free HIV testing sites are abundant, or you can have an HIV test kit delivered to your home. COVID tests are also available for free all over LA County, or delivered to your home. If you test positive for COVID or feel sick, stay home.
- Get into care. We are incredibly privileged to live in Los Angeles County where a bevy of LGBTQ+ and allied healthcare providers exist. Seriously. Google “LGBTQ healthcare provider near me” and see the results. Yes, it sounds overly simplified, but finding an LGBTQ+ provider in LA County doesn’t have to be complicated and will change your life. Asking trusted friends/family for their recommendations of LGBTQ+ and allied healthcare providers is also a good way to go. Bottom line – find a health care provider who shares your lived experience. It will completely change your relationship to health care.
- Get vaccinated. New data suggests this winter’s omicron surge was deadlier than the delta wave for seniors. We still don’t have the most eloquent solutions to COVID, but vaccines are absolutely the strongest weapon in our arsenal. Getting vaccinated and boosted (and boosted and boosted and …) might feel annoying, but it’s way less annoying than getting unnecessarily hospitalized or dying from COVID.
If I have learned anything as a queer, biracial health care provider and patient, it’s that it all starts with listening through a thoughtful, culturally competent, open-minded ear.
And that’s what we will do here at Ask the NP.
We want to hear from you. What are the biggest health concerns you face? What resources do you need? What topics should we discuss in a non-judgmental, educational-yet-fun, non-threatening manner that will help you?
I don’t have all the answers. Anyone who says they do is lying to you. But what I do have is the privilege of a platform to continue to bring awareness and solutions to the health care issues faced by LGBTQ+ people. I’m tremendously proud to be a part of and tremendously proud to fight for the LGBTQ+ community.
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