Q&A with Alphonso David, President, Human Rights Campaign

Happy Pride! June is LGBTQ Pride Month. As we celebrate the progress that has been made for LGBTQ rights, it’s important to acknowledge the challenges that still exist.

Happy Pride! June is LGBTQ Pride Month. As we celebrate the progress that has been made for LGBTQ rights, it’s important to acknowledge the challenges that still exist. LGBTQ people often face health disparities, and Covid-19 has hit this community especially hard.

For an update on where things stand, we reached out to Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, an organization working to end discrimination against LGBTQ people.  Here’s what he had to say:

1. Throughout the pandemic, the HRC has been calling attention to Covid-19’s disproportionate effect on the LGBTQ community. What is the outlook as we move toward recovery?

COVID-19 continues to have a disproportionate, adverse impact on LGBTQ people, especially LGBTQ people of color and transgender people. As the economy began to reopen last year, the Human Rights Campaign’s data analysis showed those first phases of reopening mostly failed to mend the devastating economic impact of COVID-19 on the LGBTQ community, while also giving rise to new economic problems, such as an increased likelihood of taking pay cuts and unpaid leave in order to maintain their financial livelihoods.

In March, the Human Rights Campaign released a new data analysis showing that LGBTQ adults overall say they are “very likely” to get the COVID-19 vaccine in slightly higher rates (42%) compared to the general adult population (39%). However, the data also showed major differences exist across LGBTQ populations, with only 29% of Black LGBTQ adults, 32% of bisexual women and 39% of Latinx LGBTQ adults expressing similar feelings. The data was released as a part of a public education campaign, which also included a community town hall featuring Dr. Anthony Fauci and other trusted medical experts and doctors, videos, community conversations and FAQs to address community concerns about vaccine safety, how to access the vaccine and other topics. Unfortunately, we do not have actual vaccination data since sexual orientation and gender identity information has not been collected as part of the vaccination process. The Human Rights Campaign continues to call for full, accurate and inclusive data collection to ensure that all people, including LGBTQ people, are accurately counted and included. We released a report in 2019, “LGBTQ-Inclusive Data Collection: A Lifesaving Imperative,” that details the importance of including LGBTQ people in data.

2. What challenges do LGBTQ people face when it comes to healthcare, and how has the HRC responded to them?

LGBTQ people face a number of possible challenges in health care—including finding an LGBTQ-competent health care provider and the potential for experiencing discrimination in health care. LGBTQ people of color also face unique challenges in accessing social and structural determinants of health, including lack of access to equitable employment and educational opportunities and safe housing, that can often prevent access to care. In response to these unique challenges, the Human Rights Campaign has developed a number of resources for LGBTQ community members who may be searching for a health care provider, dealing with a situation involving discrimination or simply planning to come out to their provider.

The Human Rights Campaign’s premier resource is the Healthcare Equality Index, an annual benchmarking tool which evaluates health care facilities’ policies and practices related to the equity and inclusion of their LGBTQ patients, visitors and employees. Additional resources include What To Do If You Experience Discrimination, and a guide to Coming Out to Your Doctor. More resources can be found here.

3. Is health advocacy more important for LGBTQ people?

Health advocacy is extremely important for LGBTQ people. LGBTQ people, especially those who live at the intersections of multiple marginalized identities, face unique health care needs and challenges. This makes it all the more crucial that we advocate for full access to fully competent health care for everyone in the LGBTQ community. Through our programs—including the Health & Aging program, the HIV & Health Equity program, and the Transgender Justice Initiative—the Human Rights Campaign will continue advocating for a just and equitable health care system.

To that end, earlier this year, Gilead Sciences and the Human Rights Campaign announced that Gilead will provide a $3.2 million grant to the Human Rights Campaign over two years to support communities disproportionately impacted by the HIV epidemic in the United States, particularly communities of color. Through this initiative, the Human Rights Campaign is launching a public education campaign to change the narrative by focusing on dismantling stigma and discrimination while developing and advancing an inclusive public policy that addresses non-discrimination measures and healthcare disparities among LGBTQ communities.

4. What should an LGBTQ person look for in a health advocate?

An LGBTQ person should look for a health advocate who is LGBTQ-competent, who will listen to their LGBTQ patients and who is an advocate for the community. Health advocates who are LGBTQ-competent understand the unique needs of the LGBTQ community, will not discriminate against or perpetuate stigma against LGBTQ people, and display empathy and professionalism at all times.

5. Aside from the HRC website, what are your favorite LGBTQ health resources?

Queer Health Access from the Tegan and Sara Foundation provides links to a variety of directories where people can find LGBTQ inclusive providers.

Out2Enroll provides great resources to help LGBTQ people access health insurance.

The National LGBTQIA+ Health Education Center has a large collection of educational resources for healthcare providers that are looking to become more LGBTQ competent.

6. You have done so much great work for the LGBTQ community in your career. Can you share one accomplishment that you’re especially proud of?

One accomplishment I’m particularly proud of is the preliminary injunction that the Human Rights Campaign won in August of 2020, after suing the Trump-Pence administration for advancing a rule that would have eliminated explicit protections from discrimination based on sex stereotyping and gender identity, thereby sanctioning discrimination against LGBTQ people, particularly transgender and non-binary people, in health care programs and activities. The Biden-Harris Administration has since announced it would enforce federal policy to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination in health care based on gender identity & sexual orientation through Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, making the anti-LGBTQ rule futile.

You can hear more from Alphonso David on the Washington Post podcast Cape Up. He discusses the state of LGBTQ equality on the June 8, 2021 episode.

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