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Why is the LGBTQ+ community facing poorer health outcomes due to COVID-19?


We’re all aware that clinical trials have been discussed more widely since the COVID-19 pandemic. While that’s a great thing for raising awareness of clinical trials in general, it’s also highlighted some pretty big issues in clinical research. For example, the world can see how the BAME community has been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus, which has also underlined how unrepresentative clinical trials are of them. And over the last few weeks, we’ve been looking at other populations who are also being left behind.

With June being PRIDE month, conversations were taking place around the world with regards to COVID-19, clinical trials and the LGBTQ+ community, and we were there to listen and collect important insights.

The LGBTQ+ community have faced a history of marginalisation in clinical trials, leading to challenges and barriers that still deter them from taking part. According to research from the LGBT Foundation, LGBTQ+ people are:

  • Less likely to access healthcare when they need it

  • More likely to be living with HIV

  • More likely to be homeless or insecurely housed

  • More likely to smoke

  • Less likely to be physically active or have a good diet

And as we began to look into the relationship between the LGBTQ+ community and clinical trials via social listening, we’ve seen that individuals face poorer health outcomes as a result of COVID-19…

Insights into the LGBTQ+ community and clinical trials

Of all the online content that we audited, we found it shocking that only 2% was positive, while the other 98% was neutral or negative. Just to give you an idea of what we mean, the most frequently occurring keywords associated with terms like ‘LGBTQ+’ and ‘clinical trials’ are predominantly negative and medical terms such as: “Undiagnosed HIV infection” and “Heart disease risk” - as well as talk around key evidence gaps, donor eligibility and lifestyle factors including diet, alcohol and recent sex.

Traditionally, members of the LGBTQ+ community have been seen as hard‐to‐reach populations for clinical trial recruitment due to historical stigmatisation. Only a decade ago, a review of the inclusion criteria in clinical trials indicated that exclusion of lesbians and gay men from clinical trials in the US isn’t uncommon, particularly in studies with sexual function as an end point. And another study found women were underrepresented in research in 7 out of the 11 disease categories, even when women were more likely to have the disease.

Fast forward to 2020, and COVID-19 clinical trial guidelines are being called out as demonstrating “archaic and homophobic rules” that prevent gay and bisexual men from participating due to blood and plasma donation guidance.

In light of this, our social listening report looks deeper into how LGBTQ+ people still face discrimination and stark health inequalities rooted in historical preconceptions. Plus, we highlight how clinical research will need to address these issues during and following the COVID-19 pandemic.

You can read the full report here:

We’re extremely passionate about improving diversity in clinical research. You can access further resources, including a wider report, here.

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