HIV and COVID: Areas with more gays and a history of AIDS activism correlate with cities and states that responded better to coronavirus, earlier – when government was AWOL

“The lessons learned and trauma experienced during the onset of HIV helped gay urban areas respond quickly and effectively to the early paralysis of the federal government. “
A study and a possible forthcoming book strongly suggest that those who have worked and agitated in their communities without recognition, let alone support, for Americans battling the latest pandemic have emerged with certain skills to accompany this trauma. And the indications are that the lessons, ideas, and agitation likely alleviated some amount of pain during quarantines and contributed to greater resilience. – Editor

How Gay Neighborhoods Used HIV Trauma to Help U.S. Cities Fight Coronavirus

HIV-related health and support groups have offered COVID-19 testing and other community services during the pandemic.
iStock / Getty Images Plus

The conversation

Throughout the pandemic, local neighborhoods played a critical role and well documented role of providing the health and social services necessary for U.S. communities and businesses to survive and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gay neighborhoods were particularly well equipped to meet this challenge, according to our latest research on these communities.

We find that the lessons learned and traumas experienced at the onset of the HIV / AIDS pandemic help urban gay areas respond to COVID-19 quickly and effectively – especially in the face of the early paralysis of the federal government.

How gay neighborhoods fought against HIV / AIDS

Gay neighborhoods are those that welcome lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transsexuals, queer and other sexual minorities – a population generally designated by the abbreviation LGBTQ +. Well-known examples include the Castro neighborhood in San Francisco, Dupont Circle in Washington, and Greenwich Village and Chelsea in New York.

Street scene with lots of pride flags
The West Village neighborhood of New York City during Pride Month, June 2021.
Alexi Rosenfeld / Getty Images

“Gay neighborhoods” developed during the sexual liberation movements of the 1960s and 1970s, providing the LGTBQ and their allies with a loophole. pervasive discrimination and prejudice. In these areas, sexual minorities could rent apartments, socialize in bars, and express themselves freely in a compassionate, like-minded community.

Even when LGBTQ people in the United States began to live more openly, gay neighborhoods really did united around the HIV / AIDS pandemic.

When this mysterious new disease began to ravage the LGBTQ community in the 1980s, the US government turned away from these communities. Critical HIV support – including health care subsidies for the uninsured and funding of research into treatments and remedieswas not provided initially. Data information by governments about disease transmission and treatment was inconsistent and sometimes inaccurate.

Government neglect has ended up stigmatizing people living with HIV and leading to many preventable deaths. So, as we discovered in our last book, gay neighborhoods have filled the void where government and traditional organizations have failed. They became the battlegrounds where the AIDS pandemic was fought and ultimately won.

Residents of gay neighborhoods have developed community organizations and systems to provide health care and mental health services, provide social support to LGBTQ + people, and support LGBTQ-friendly businesses.

Public health organizations like the one in New York Gay men’s health crisis also stepped in to do what many doctors would not do. They shared information about slowing and stopping the spread of HIV and also distributed condoms, performed free HIV tests, and linked people who tested positive to help them.

Men parade shirtless holding a “GMHC” banner and another that reads “Fight for our lives”,
New York City Pride March in June 1985 with a gay men’s health crisis contingent. Suzanne Poli / Getty Images

Building a community during the crisis

The COVID-19 pandemic shares many similarities recalling the early days of the HIV / AIDS pandemic.

With HIV / AIDS and COVID-19, there has been a disjointed and sloppy government response that endangered and scared lives and stigma. Even some of the same government-appointed leaders were in place: Dr Anthony Fauci and Dr Deborah Birx worked to mobilize government resources to lead the medical response to HIV in the 1990s.

With COVID-19, as with HIV / AIDS, city ​​and state governments were unprepared to tackle an epidemic. They lacked both the planning and the infrastructure to effectively tackle a rapidly accelerating public health threat.

As a result, several states in the United States have turned to gay neighborhood organizations for help, relying on neighborhood LGBTQ + health organizations to help support their Response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Example of social distancing signage from Toronto’s gay district.
Robert Modzelewski, CC BY

For example, in New York City, the Erie County Department of Health requested that Evergreen health – an LGBTQ community group originally created in the 1980s as a volunteer effort to fight HIV – take responsibility for HIV testing during the COVID-19 pandemic so the county government can focus on COVID-19 testing. Evergreen too opened a COVID-19 driving test center in the spring of 2020 – four decades after introducing HIV testing in the Buffalo area.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Evergreen Health not only continued to provide health care and other support services to Buffalo’s LGBTQ community, but also expanded its offerings to better serve underserved and minority neighborhoods Through the city. At this moment, New York State was the global epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Chicago and other cities, activists have used LGBTQ + urban social and professional networks established during the HIV / AIDS pandemic to fight against this last disease. Queer communities have disseminated information about COVID-19 to their neighbors and face masks distributed and other protective equipmentjust as they once shared information about HIV transmission and distributed condoms.

[The Conversation’s most important coronavirus headlines, weekly in a science newsletter]

Lessons learned

States with major grassroots activism in the HIV crisis have also applied the lessons of that time on overcome misinformation and fear of contagious diseases.

For example, New York State used a network of small labs to process its COVID-19 tests and administer vaccines – a model developed during the emergence of the HIV / AIDS pandemic when large centralized laboratories were initially nervous about working with seropositive blood samples. At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, this allowed New York to respond effectively and process COVID-19 tests relatively quickly.

New York, followed by California, was among the states in which COVID-19 infection first appeared in the United States. these state governments set up testing procedures, they were inspired by testing methods established during the HIV / AIDS pandemic. The experience in New York and California with HIV / AIDS has helped, at least in part, to establish robust testing networks during the COVID-19 pandemic.

the UK Government, on the other hand, chose centralized laboratories to process the tests, rejecting an offer to create a complementary network of smaller local providers. This decision may have complicated tests and slow results and the search for contacts, according to SkyNews information.

Our research also finds gay neighborhoods grouped together to meet the needs of the community at large.

Activist support networks formed decades ago within gayborhoods deployed peer-to-peer mobile technologies to help feed trapped and sick people – not just within the LGBTQ community.

Many of these efforts to fight COVID-19, such as the measures taken to fight against HIV / AIDS, were done quietly, without fanfare. This neighbor-caregiver-neighbor approach is a management hallmark that can be found in gay neighborhoods – experienced lifeguards in times of crisis.

Daniel Baldwin Hess, professor of town planning and regional planning, University of Buffalo and Alex bitterman, professor of architecture and design, Alfred State College of Technology, State University of New York

This article is republished from The conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read it original article.


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