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How the COVID-19 pandemic affects transgender health care - A cross-sectional online survey in 63 upper-middle-income and high-income countries

Background Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, access to medical care is restricted for nearly all non-acute conditions. Due to their status as a vulnerable social group and the inherent need for transition-related treatments, transgender people are assumed to be affected particularly severely by the restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Methods As an ad hoc collaboration between researchers, clinicians and 23 community organizations, we developed a web-based survey in German that was translated into 26 languages. Participants were recruited via community sources, social media channels, and snowball sampling since May 2020. The present sample is based on the data collected until August 9, 2020. We assessed demographical data, health problems, risk factors, COVID-19 data (e.g., contact history), and the influence of the COVID-19 pandemic on access to transgender health care services. To identify factors associated with the experience of restrictions, we conducted multiple logistic regression analysis. Results 5267 transgender people from 63 upper-middle-income and high-income countries participated in the study. Over 50% of the participants had risk factors for a severe course of a COVID-19 infection and were at a high risk of avoiding COVID-19 treatment due to the fear of mistreatment or discrimination. Access to transgender health care services was restricted for 50% of the participants. Male sex assigned at birth and a lower monthly income were significant predictors for the experience of restrictions to health care. 35.0% reported at least one mental health condition and 3.2% have attempted suicide since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Discussion Transgender people suffer under the severity of the pandemic due to the intersections between their status as a vulnerable social group, their high number of medical risk factors, and their need for ongoing medical treatment. The COVID-19 pandemic can potentiate these vulnerabilities, add new challenges for transgender people, and, therefore, can lead to devastating consequences, like severe physical or mental health issues, self-harming behavior, and suicidality.
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© 2021 The Author(s). Published with license by Taylor & Francis Group, LLC. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/), which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way