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A Look at the Risks Facing LGBTQ Seniors Under The Coronavirus Pandemic

LUCAS BRADY WOODS, HOST: Seniors have been hit hard by the COVID-19 outbreak. They’re more susceptible than younger people to negative health outcomes from the virus, and they’re more likely to suffer from social isolation. That can be particularly tough for LGBTQ seniors, who may be even more isolated, according to Aundaray Guess. He’s the deputy director of GRIOT Circle, a Brooklyn-based community organization serving LGBTQ elders. I asked him why he thinks LGBTQ seniors are especially vulnerable right now.

AUNDARAY GUESS: Unlike other seniors who may be part of a family, you know, who may have the you know, whether it's, you know, family members as such, LGBT Adults, especially those of color may not have that whether it's just them. So for if you're looking at isolation, they don't have somebody in that house to, you know, communicate with or, or bond with. And if anything, their house feels more like a prison. The risk for LGBT seniors extend to the fact that there are still mistrust of other institutions, whether it's Senior Services, medical services based on, you know, being stigmatized for their sexuality. Even now, you know, you may have LGBT seniors who may not even want to approach doctors in a situation based on past instances of not feeling welcome. They may not necessarily reach out as soon as they as when they should, and that they may wait until symptoms or anything is too late

WOODS: A lot of your clients experienced the HIV and AIDS epidemic of the 1980s firsthand. So what does this healthcare crisis look like for those that are HIV and AIDS positive and therefore immunocompromised?

GUESS: Well, you know, it's interesting, this is so similar to when HIV came out, you know, the stigma, of having it, which unfortunately was being directed toward Chinese American today, but back then, you know, it was definitely directly to gay individuals is the the, you know, people isolate each other from that I mean, that, that tone is just so submit similarity that it's erie.

WOODS: That's, that's heartbreaking. Do you think, having gone through that somehow informs this experience for your clients? Like makes it easier or harder for them?

GUESS: Um, you know, I think if anything, it's weird, but I think that they, because they went through the earlier stigma of HIV and they have more of a calm about it, whereas you know, other people who have never experienced those feelings of stigma who have never explained people passing away suddenly, you know, because again with HIV, you know, especially during early days when people were dying that, unfortunately, it was a sad norm, but also it was a part of the disease. But, you know, for those now with this virus, and again, with so many people, you know, being lost, you know, from what I've heard from the older adults is that although they, you know, they understand it, they also, I think, have a greater coping skills based on the fact they went through this before.

WOODS: Aundaray, thank you so much for being with us today.

GUESS: Thank you so much for at least letting me talk about this real important topic.


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