Modelling HIV Prevention During the Pandemic – #LGBTWellness Roundup

Each week LGBT HealthLink, a Program of CenterLink brings you a round-up of some of the biggest LGBTQ wellness stories from the past week.

Now you can HEAR your Weekly Wellness Roundup, too! Subscribe to our weekly podcast here: or where ever you podcast.

Modelling HIV Prevention During the Pandemic

A study examined how the COVID-19 pandemic might impact HIV rates among queer men in the U.S. Using modelling of Baltimore as an example, they found that if the number of sexual partners was reduced by 25% for six months due to shutdowns – and there was no dip in HIV prevention services – new HIV infections could be reduced by an average of 12.2%. On the other hand, if the number of partners remained the same and service access dipped, there would be an average 10.5% increase in infections over a one-year period. The results show the importance of maintaining service delivery, including as sexual activity returns to pre-pandemic norms. 

Alcohol Use among Queer Women

Researchers explored alcohol use among sexual minority women, who tend to experience alcohol use disorder at about twice the rate of their heterosexual peers. They found that alcohol use as well as levels of social support and discrimination were all associated with symtoms of depression. Interestingly, though, they did not find that discrimination was associated with alcohol use. The results are part of the PRIDE Study

Equality Act Returns to Congress

Gay City News reported that the Equality Act, which would ban discrimination against LGBT individuals in a number of areas, has been reintroduced in Congress. The bill has previously passed the House but has not made progress in the Senate. The law would expand on the Supreme Court ruling that included LGBT folks in employment nondiscrimination law, which is slowly spreading to other areas of the law as cases apply the Supreme Court’s reasoning. 

Trans Masculine Folks and PrEP

Researchers examined PrEP use among trans masculine individuals who have sex with men, and found that 84% had heard of PrEP and 67% were interested. However, only 28% were on PrEP and only two-thirds of those on PrEP used it consistently, indicating room for increased usage among this population. 

Chosen Families Matter in Leave Laws

Center for American Progress explored why it is important for LGBT individuals that families of choice be considered in paid family and medical leave policies. Fewer than half of LGBT Americans say they would rely on their families of origin if they were sick, and fewer than one-third would rely on a spouse; rather, many rely on friends and partners who are often not legally recognized. Coverage for LGBT people is especially important given the health and socioeconomic disparities the community faces. 

Sexuality, Race, and Incarceration – #LGBTWellness Roundup

Each week LGBT HealthLink, a Program of CenterLink brings you a round-up of some of the biggest LGBTQ wellness stories from the past week.

Now you can HEAR your Weekly Wellness Roundup, too! Subscribe to our weekly podcast here: or where ever you podcast.

In recognition of Black History Month, we’re continuing to cover stories relevant to Black LGBT communities, as well as other important LGBT health news and research.

Unpacking Sexuality, Racism, and Incarceration 

A new study found that discrimination on the basis of race, sexual orientation, and HIV status all contribute to the disparities that Black sexual minority young men face in terms of being arrested and facing incarceration. Experiencing racism was the strongest predictor of criminal justice involvement, but having experienced sexual orientation and HIV-based discrimination also made Black young men more likely to be involved in the system. 

Film Coming on Racial Justice, LGBT Leader

Gay City News reported on a new biopic coming to Netflix that will explore the life of Bayard Rustin, who was an ally of Martin Luther King, Jr., and also an early leader of the LGBT rights movement. The announcement, which appropriately comes during Black History Month, says the film will be produced by the Obama family’s production company and will feature several LGBT filmmakers working behind the scenes.

LGBT Troops Face Health Challenges

Researchers found that sexual minority women in the armed forces were more likely to engage in problematic alcohol use and smoking than their heterosexual peers, while sexual minority men were at higher risk for suicide than their straight counterparts. Meanwhile, transgender servicemembers were more likely than their cisgender peers to experience anxiety, PTSD, depression, and suicidality. 

Trans Healthcare Workers Celebrate Nomination

Spectrum News 1 reported on how transgender healthcare workers are responding to the historic nomination of Dr. Rachel Levine to be assistant secretary of health, which would make her the first Senate-confirmed transgender public servant in history. Those interviewed said they hope that Dr. Levine’s role will both inspire transgender youth to enter the health profession, as well as increase acceptance of transgender folks who work in healthcare (and sometimes face mistreatment from educators, colleagues, and patients). 

Self-testing for HIV Proves Popular

Researchers in the UK found that an HIV self-testing program was popular among transgender individuals, with nearly all saying that it was easy to use and provided a good overall experience. Over a two year period, those who were in the self-testing study reported taking more than three times the number of HIV tests as those who continued going in for regular, in-person testing. The study notes, however, that recruitment and retention of trans women (compared to trans men) was low. 

Dial in Some Love

Dazed reported on a hotine being offered by a digital provider of LGBT health services that provides messages of hope and inspiration during a time when many in the community feel isolated. LBGT individuals can call 1-888-FOLX-FAM to listen to messages of support from people like activists, authors, and drag performers. 

LGBT Folks Hesitant on Vaccine – #LGBTWellness Roundup

Each week LGBT HealthLink, a Program of CenterLink brings you a round-up of some of the biggest LGBTQ wellness stories from the past week.

Now you can HEAR your Weekly Wellness Roundup, too! Subscribe to our weekly podcast here: or where ever you podcast.

LGBT Folks Concerned about Vaccine

Out Boulder County published what could be the first study in the U.S. on COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy among LGBT people. LGBT folks there were nearly twice as likely as non-LGBT folks to express reluctance to take the vaccine, with 17% expressing concern compared to 9% of their non-LGBT peers. Cisgender LGBT folks assigned female at birth were most likely to express reluctance. Find more LGBT centers and learn how they are tackling the pandemic here.

Building Trust in the Community

Meanwhile, the American Independent reported that advocates say the federal government must build trust with LGBT folks regarding the vaccine. This could include increasing data collection so LGBT people are seen and heard, ensuring nondiscrimination in those promoting and providing the vaccine, and conducting targeted outreach to the community.

LGBT Folks Face Elevated Risks

The CDC published findings that LGBT individuals have higher prevalence of several health conditions that are associated with negative COVID-19 outcomes, including among racial and ethnic minorities. These include asthma, cancer, heart disease, and smoking. Researchers say that more data on LGBT folks and COVID-19 could help us to better understand disparities.

Med Students Face Mistreatment, Burnout

Researchers found that LGB medical students faced higher levels of various forms of mistreatment than did their heterosexual peers (including with respect to gender and race or ethnicity), and also faced higher rates of burnout. Those facing mistreatment specifically based on their sexual orientation had eight times higher probability of burnout than did heterosexual peers.

We Heart Hearts

HRC launched a new My Heart, My Pride campaign to coincide with American Heart Month and raise awareness about heart health among LGBT communities. The American Heart Association, which has recently found LGBT people to experience worse cardiovascular health than the rest of the population, is working in coordination and promoting healthy behaviors.

Drinking Rates Rise

NBC News reported on research suggesting that LGBT folks have been consuming more alcohol than usual during the pandemic, and that their increases have surpassed those of the general population (which has also seen a rise). Experts point to a higher sense of isolation among LGBT individuals, which has increased as LGBT social spaces (and social spaces in general) have shuttered.

Challenges for LGBT in STEM – #LGBTWellness Roundup

Each week LGBT HealthLink, a Program of CenterLink brings you a round-up of some of the biggest LGBTQ wellness stories from the past week.

Now you can HEAR your Weekly Wellness Roundup, too! Subscribe to our weekly podcast here: or where ever you podcast.

Challenges for LGBT in STEM

A new study found that LGBT folks faced systemic disadvantages in STEM fields, including facing career limitations and harassment from peers, and reported more frequent health difficulties than their peers. Limited opportunities in STEM jobs also means that LGBT people might be less able to address health disparities the community faces.

Got Insurance?

POZ reported that the health insurance marketplace put in place by the Affordable Care Act will reopen for a special session starting February 15th, to help those who may have lost their insurance during the pandemic – a problem for many, especially given unemployment. Research has found that the ACA significantly increased access to care for LGBT individuals.

Aetna Expands Gender-affirming Coverage

The New York Times reported that Aetna, one of the country’s largest insurers, has agreed to cover breast augmentation for transgender women. The service will now be deemed medically necessary to treat gender dysphoria, rather than “cosmetic,” a designation that previously meant it wasn’t covered (and that is still used by most insurers). Patients will need to be on hormone therapy for a year and have a mental health referral to qualify.

Impact of Gender-neutral HPV Policies

Researchers studied potential impacts of different HPV vaccination policies, using data from Spain. They found that programs targeting only women (as has traditionally been the case) help protect heterosexual men but not queer men. Gender-neutral policies would, on the other hand, have a health benefit for queer men, who are at higher risk for HPV.

LGBT Activist Passes

NBC News reported on the passing of LGBT activist Carmen Vázquez, who began her work for the community in the 1970s in San Francisco, where she helped form community spaces and public health responses for LGBT people. Vázquez died from complications related to COVID-19.

Pushing for Progress in 2021

LGBT ActionLink published its 2021 advocacy priorities, which include passing the Equality Act, a bill that would protect LGBT folks from discrimination in settings like workplaces, healthcare providers, and education. They also include protecting the wellbeing of youth through actions such as banning conversion therapy and treating transgender students consistently with their gender identity.

Trans Doctor Makes History – #LGBTWellness Roundup

Each week LGBT HealthLink, a Program of CenterLink brings you a round-up of some of the biggest LGBTQ wellness stories from the past week.

Now you can HEAR your Weekly Wellness Roundup, too! Subscribe to our weekly podcast here: or where ever you podcast.

Transgender Doctor Makes History

GLMA celebrated the historic nomination of Dr. Rachel Levine to a top post at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – making her the first transgender person to be nominated for a Senate-confirmed post with the federal government. Vox reported that she will be the highest-ranking transgender person in history if confirmed, and will help lead health policy. 

LGBT Orgs Struggle

Movement Advancement Project published a new report finding that three in five LGBT-serving organizations had to revise down their annual budgets in 2020 due to the pandemic, by an average of nearly $800,000. Many revenue sources were down as organizations struggled to continue to provide services and do fundraising, putting critical services at risk over the long term.

Find and support local LGBT organizations using CenterLink’s interactive directory.

Uterus Transplant a Promising Idea

Researchers found that 99% of transgender women believed that a uterus transplant would lead to greater happiness for transgender women generally. 94% indicated a personal desire to have children in the future, and the same number said that the ability to gestate and give birth themselves would enhance their sense of gender, leading researchers to call for more study of the topic.

Intersex Policies Begin to Change

In-Training reported on “overdue” policies from a few major children’s hospitals to end medically unnecessary surgeries on intersex children. Such procedures have been regularly performed on children with intersex characteristics since at least the 1950s, despite their being no medical need; major organizations including the World Health Organization have called for them to end.

Push to Prioritize People Living with HIV

Gay City News reported that advocates are pushing for people living with HIV to be more clearly included in the next priority group to be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. The CDC currently lists people living with HIV as a group that “might” be at higher risk, which advocates say is not reflective of the most recent research that shows higher risk for contracting and having negative impacts from the virus.

First Lady Visits Clinic

The Washington Blade reported that First Lady Dr. Jill Biden made a surprise appearance at Whitman-Walker Health, an LGBTQ and HIV-focused clinic in D.C. Dr. Biden wanted to see how COVID-19 was impacting the community’s access to other essential healthcare services.

LGBT Folks Show Symptoms During Pandemic – #LGBTWellness Roundup

Each week LGBT HealthLink, a Program of CenterLink brings you a round-up of some of the biggest LGBTQ wellness stories from the past week.

Now you can HEAR your Weekly Wellness Roundup, too! Subscribe to our weekly podcast here: or where ever you podcast.

LGBT Folks Show Physical, Mental Symptoms

A new study found that LGBT individuals were more likely to have experienced physical symptoms of COVID-19 during the pandemic than were their heterosexual, cisgender peers. They were also more likely to have symptoms of depression and anxiety, including at levels that crossed the clinical concern threshold, highlighting the toll that the pandemic was taking on mental health.

PrEP Interest High, Use Low

Out reported on a new study finding that PrEP use among queer men in the U.S. remains stubbornly low, with only ten percent of study participants consistently taking the drug to prevent HIV infection. While 90% of gay and bisexual men said they were willing to try PrEP, and many did try it during the study’s period, far fewer men continued to use it moving forward.

Communities Supporting LGBT Older Adults

Oakland Press reported on the ongoing challenges facing LGBT older adults during the COVID-19 pandemic. LGBT older adults often rely more on their communities and chosen families, and staying connected has been hard as this group is also at higher risk for COVID-19. The article highlights numerous community programs that can help bridge the gap.

Pandemic Complicates Limited Resources for Youth

On the other side of the age spectrum, WZDX reported on how the pandemic is impacting LGBT youth in Alabama and nationwide. The pandemic has taken a toll on the mental health of all youth, but LGBT youth are already more likely to face mental health challenges due to stigma and discrimination. Support at school – already an issue for many – has become even more complicated in the age of remote and “hybrid” learning.

To find a local LGBT center near you, and see what they are doing to support LGBT youth and older adults, visit CenterLink’s directory.

Some States Poised to Reduce Rights

The Daily Beast reported on moves happening in some states to ban transgender teens from being able to access hormone therapy and puberty blockers, or to participate in school sports. Thirteen states have seen such legislation filed this year, and more could follow. Advocates say these policies would increase stigma and worsen the mental health of trans teens.

North Carolina Sees Changes

Meanwhile, NBC News reported that North Carolina saw a recent rush of local LGBT nondiscrimination ordinances, as a statewide prohibition on local LGBT protections expired on December 1. Three cities have already passed protections this year that include prohibiting discrimination in hospitals, doctors’ offices, and other healthcare settings, as well as at work.

Get involved in LGBT policy issues with ActionLink.

Queer Middle Schoolers Face Tobacco Disparity – #LGBTWellness Roundup

Each week LGBT HealthLink, a Program of CenterLink brings you a round-up of some of the biggest LGBTQ wellness stories from the past week.

Now you can HEAR your Weekly Wellness Roundup, too! Subscribe to our weekly podcast here: or where ever you podcast.

Middle School Youth Face Biggest Tobacco Disparity

The FDA published its annual report on youth tobacco use and found that major disparities exist for LGB youth. 30.9% of LGB high schoolers currently used some form of tobacco product compared to 22% of their heterosexual peers, and the disparities were worse at the middle school level, where 16.5% of LGB youth used tobacco products compared to 5.5% of heterosexual youth.

Unpacking COVID’s Impact

Researchers explored the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on LGBT communities, including the financial (in which LGBT folks are more likely to say they are worse off because of the pandemic) and healthcare access (already a problem for LGBT people due to stigma and lower insured rates). Much of what we should know about COVID-19 and LGBT people is lacking due to a failure to collect data. The journal also explored the topic on a podcast.

HPV: The “Other” Vaccine

A study explored how to make the biggest impact with HPV vaccination, which has historically targeted young women. They found that prioritizing sexual minority men would actually have the biggest total health benefit for the population, with heterosexual females being the next group who should be prioritized, and heterosexual males being the last.

Federal Protections Nixed

Human Rights Watch reported that the federal government has removed an existing rule that requires providers of health and welfare programs that receive federal funds to not discriminate against LGBT people or people in same-sex marriages. Among other things, the change will allow adoption and foster care agencies to exclude same-sex couples.

City’s Move Highlights Equality Challenges

KOIN reported that the city of Portland passed an ordinance to make family planning and fertility services inclusive of LGBT city employees and non-partnered individuals. Nondiscrimination laws and same-sex marriage have not solved many of the access issues LGBT people face in covering these expensive services. Oregon’s cities have been noted as leaders in many areas of LGBT equality where statewide laws have been lacking.

Jamaica Report Marks a First

Elsewhere in the world, UNAIDS reported on a new transgender health strategy led by an advocacy group in Jamaica that is the first of its kind in the English-speaking caribbean. Beyond immediate health concerns (like soaring rates of HIV), the plan also looks at issues like economic opportunity, food insecurity, and public safety that greatly impact health and wellbeing.

Advancing Intersectionality is a Great Resolution – #LGBTWellness Roundup

Each week LGBT HealthLink, a Program of CenterLink brings you a round-up of some of the biggest LGBTQ wellness stories from the past week.

Now you can HEAR your Weekly Wellness Roundup, too! Subscribe to our weekly podcast here: or where ever you podcast.

New Year, New Focus on Intersectionality

The American Journal of Public Health published an op-ed on how to advance intersectionality research that is inclusive of people of color, LGBT folks, and other marginalized groups. We sat down with the article’s author, Dr. Rodrigo Aguayo-Romero, to talk about why intersectionality matters for LGBT health. Listen to our exclusive interview on the LGBT Wellness Roundup Podcast.

LGBT Folks Face Financial, Health Challenges

Movement Advancement Project published a new report that found that 66% of LGBT households had experienced significant financial problems during the COVID-19 pandemic, compared to 44% of non-LGBT households. Additionally, 38% of LGBT households reported being unable to get medical care or delaying care, compared to half that number (19%) among non-LGBT households.

Study Could Change Blood Donation Rules

NBC News reported that the FDA has begun a new pilot study that could result in lifting the restrictions on donating blood that currently target queer men, which advocates say are discriminatory. The study will recruit 2,000 gay and bisexual men to see if there are better ways to screen for HIV risk besides simply disqualifying those who recently had a same-sex partner.

LGB Veterans at Risk

Healio reported on a new study finding that sexual minority veterans were at higher risk of suicide mortality than their heterosexual peers. The rate among sexual minority veterans was more than double that of veterans generally, and suicide was overall the fifth-leading cause of death among LGB vets. While many studies look at suicide risk, fewer have been able to assess mortality due to limited data.

Obesity and Disordered Eating Among Youth

Researchers examined obesity and disordered eating among youths aged 9-10 who identified as definitely or maybe LGBT, and found that they faced 1.64 times the risk of obesity compared to their peers, and 3.49 times the risk for various levels of binge eating disorders. While identities are still evolving at that age, the study is important because most related research looks at only adolescents and adults.

Gay Circuit Parties Slammed

C’mon, folx. The Bay Area Reporter and LA Blade reported on massive New Years Eve parties held in Mexico by gay U.S. organizers. While the organizers claimed that public health guidelines would be followed, videos revealed that few COVID-19 restrictions were followed. Many in the LGBT community and press condemned the events as selfish and risky.

2020 Year in Review! #LGBTWellness Roundup

Each week LGBT HealthLink, a Program of CenterLink brings you a round-up of some of the biggest LGBTQ wellness stories from the past week.

Now you can HEAR your Weekly Wellness Roundup, too! Subscribe to our weekly podcast here: or where ever you podcast.

This week, we reflect back on some of the biggest stories we covered during 2020. Don’t forget that you can access our full library of roundups here and also subscribe to the LGBT Wellness Roundup podcast wherever you listen!

The Year of the Pandemic

While the COVID-19 pandemic was of course the defining event of 2020, it was also a major story for LGBT health and wellness. Have LGBT people been particularly at risk for COVID-19 infections or related complications? That’s hard to say, since little data has been collected by government offices in charge of collecting this data. Even in California – where a law was passed to add sexual orientation and gender identity questions to COVID-19 testing – that data has still yet to be collected.

Centers Stepping Up

The COVID-19 pandemic also meant that LGBT people were subjected to extreme isolation as stay home orders were issued and businesses, schools, and jobs were shut down; they were also more likely to face financial impacts as a result of the shutdowns. Luckily, LGBT centers across the country stepped in to provide remote services like support groups and social opportunities, as well as modified health services that reduced in-person contact, and emergency services like food pantries and other forms of aid. To help out or get support yourself, check out CenterLink’s interactive LGBT center directory.

Health Innovations Emerge

With many health centers closing for non-emergencies, transportation options being limited, and folks being advised to stay home, many health innovations emerged in 2020 that stand to benefit LGBT people in the long run (if they remain in place). For example, the CDC issued guidance on how to make PrEP more accessible with fewer visits to doctors and pharmacies – changes that could make this HIV prevention treatment easier to access moving forward. Transgender people in particular also benefitted from the adoption of telehealth services, which generally have been shunned by insurers and thus providers, but which have helped trans people in areas with few gender affirming care providers suddenly have a lot more options. 

Supreme Court Signals Change

Beyond COVID-19, another major story in 2020 was the landmark Supreme Court decision, Bostock v. Clayton County. This decision held that the law prohibiting sex-based discrimination in employment included sexual orientation- and gender identity-based discrimination, too. While employment itself is important for health and wellness (including through accessing insurance and income), the decision could have an even more direct impact on health as the reasoning of the case is used in healthcare discrimination cases.

Responding to Racial Injustice

As the U.S. reacted to the deaths of Black individuals like George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of police, many in the LGBT movement stood up in support of racial justice. In Los Angeles, for example, the typical summer Pride celebration was exchanged for a march in support of Black lives. Many LGBT organizations highlighted the health disparities that LGBT people of color, particularly Black and Latinx individuals, face even when compared to their White LGBT peers, as well as to discuss the issue of racism within the LGBT community.

Trans Representation Grows

One way to advance equity is to increase representation of LGBT people in office. 2020 saw the election of several transgender candidates into state offices, from Vermont to Colorado and from Deleware to Kansas. 2020 also saw Pennsylvania’s secretary of health, who happens to be a trans woman, come into the spotlight as she led the state’s response to COVID-19 (and stood strong in the face of mistreatment). To find out how you can get involved in LGBT policy issues, too, check out our ActionLink program.

Acceptance Saves Lives – #LGBTWellness Roundup

Each week LGBT HealthLink, a Program of CenterLink brings you a round-up of some of the biggest LGBTQ wellness stories from the past week.

Now you can HEAR your Weekly Wellness Roundup, too! Subscribe to our weekly podcast here: or where ever you podcast.

Acceptance Saves Lives

A new study found that among LGBT youth aged 13-24, those who were highly accepted by at least one adult had almost 40% lower odds of having attempted suicide within the past year compared to their peers without such acceptance. Acceptance from parents was the most impactful, while acceptance from non-LGBT peers also made a big difference.

ACEs Impacting LGB Folks

Relatedly, researchers found that sexual minorities experience more adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) than their heterosexual peers, and that these individuals were at higher risk for cormorbid substance use and mental health disorders. Bisexual women were particularly affected, with 43.8% reporting four or more ACEs. The study is the first nationally representative study of its kind. 

Data Promise Falls Short

Los Angeles Magazine reported that while California made headlines months ago for its new law to collect LGBT data in COVID-19 tracing, it still is not doing so. People continue to report that they are not being asked their sexual orientation or gender identity when being tested, meaning California (like the rest of the U.S.) does not know how the pandemic is impacting LGBT communities.

Eating Disorders Outside the Binary

A new study explored eating disorders and related issues among gender-expansive individuals, and found no statistical differences based on sex assigned at birth (unlike is the case for cisgender people). It found that gender-expansive folks had lower concerns around body shape and eating restraints than did transgender women, but higher rates than did cisgender men. 

Same-sex Couple Denied Surogacy Benefits

LGBTQ Nation reported on a gay couple who were denied insurance coverage of surogacy costs because they are both men – even though the same treatment is covered for heteroseuxal couples as well as same-sex female couples. The reason for the denial, puzzlingly, was that they were in a “male-male relationship.” The couple is weighing legal action against the insurer.

Fund Assists those Struggling through Pandemic

UNAIDS announced a new fund to help key populations of people living with HIV – including LGBT folks – who are struggling because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The fund is currently being piloted in five countries and will go to social entrepreneurs and small business people living with HIV.

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