U.N. urges nations to protect LGBT+ people amid coronavirus

By Matthew Lavietes

NEW YORK, April 17 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The United Nations on Friday urged countries to protect LGBT+ people against discrimination when seeking health care during the pandemic, saying they may be hesitant to seek medical services and be especially vulnerable to the coronavirus.

Members of the LGBT+ community with HIV or AIDS may have compromised immune systems or a higher chance of being homeless than the wider population, making social distancing and safe hygiene difficult, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said in a statement.

"LGBTI people are among the most vulnerable and marginalized in many societies, and among those most at risk from COVID-19," Bachelet said.

"We know that efforts to tackle the pandemic will only work if everyone's rights to life and health are protected."

LGBT+ people regularly face stigma and discrimination while seeking health services, which affects their access to quality care, the U.N. said.

And under medical systems strained by the coronavirus, "decisions about scaling back services should be medically based and data-driven and should not reflect bias against LGBTI people," it said.

Efforts to halt the spread of the virus have forced the closing of many LGBT+ centers that often provide health care.

Reported cases of the coronavirus have topped 2.18 million globally, and more than 147,000 people have died, according to a Reuters tally on Friday.

The U.N. also said nations must enact measures to protect LGBT+ people who are vulnerable to domestic violence and abuse and live in poverty during the pandemic.

(Reporting by Matthew Lavietes, Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)