The isolation and memories of HIV hit LGBT + adults hard at locks

STROUD, England / MEXICO CITY, March 30 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – A lockdowns have been issued worldwide to stop the spread of coronavirus, LGBT + groups are scrambling to support older members of their community are more likely to live alone and suffer from poor health than their heterosexual peers.

With community centers and other face-to-face services forced to close from Mexico City to New York and London, volunteers gather around to deliver food and on the phone to the elderly – and even top – the funeral funds.

Even before the outbreak, grief was prevalent among LGBT + adults, according to a 2016 study by The Williams Institute, a US research center on sexual orientation and gender identity law and policy at the UCLA School of Law.

A survey it cited found that nearly 60% of LGBT + adults felt they had no association, with some living with HIV and losing AIDS partners and friends in the 1980s and 1990s.

“Most of them live at home, and they don’t have family support networks,” said Arturo Arcos, a psychologist at Vida Alegre, Mexico City’s only drop-in center for LGBT + seniors, who closed last week as a precaution against coronavirus.

“In most cases, they didn’t have children, and, for many of them, their families didn’t talk to them.”

COMPLETE CRISIS

The coronavirus pandemic also brought back traumatic memories for people who lost friends and family in the HIV / AIDS crisis.

“I lost three siblings to HIV and about five girlfriends. My sister, she lives with (HIV),” said Diedra Nottingham, 69, who was separated from her New York apartment.

“I’m a person who likes being outside, but I’m afraid of getting sick.”

But Nottingham, whose partner died 15 years ago, said he was lucky to move into an LGBT-friendly housing complex in January where he obtained food deliveries and phone check-ups.

High rates of poverty pose a threat to LGBT + adults, said David Vincent, head of programs at SAGE, the Nottingham housing charity and had to shut down five drop-in centers in New York City.

“Discrimination also affects their work. As a result, they may have no savings or pensions … many people have,” Vincent said. “Their ability to prepare is not the same. So they are often … left with a complete crisis.”

SAGE now calls about 2,000 vulnerable adults at least every other day and delivers 200-250 daily meals throughout the city, as well as moving everything from counseling sessions to classes of watercolor painting online.

“The need is huge,” Vincent said.

While “mutual aid” groups are on the rise in communities around the world, LGBT + adults may not be seeking help where they live, says Carla Ecola, who runs The Outside Project, an LGBT + nonprofit residential accommodation in London.

“It’s probably more likely that they’ve experienced anger in their neighbors,” said Ecola, who marched a team of nearly 120 volunteers to help LGBT + people across the country.

“Now they feel weak that they don’t want to be associated with similar aid groups.”

In other advocacy groups, Ecola also applied for a British government grant of up to 20,000 pounds ($ 25,000) to establish a funeral fund for poor members of the LGBT + community.

“We have to raise money to bury our neighbors; that’s the reality of the situation,” he said.

Older lesbians, gay, bisexual and transgender people are now calling the LGBT + helpline Switchboard for talks, said co-chair Tash Walker, who added volunteers last week picked up the organization’s first secular calls for 46 years.

“I know now that we’re all isolated and on lockdown, but the one thing I really feel is having a bonding, community drive. People reaching out and volunteering or helping those who are isolated and can’t take care of themselves, ”Walker said.

“Maybe that would be a positive result of a very difficult time.”

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