I am a Senior Attorney and the Criminal Justice and Police Misconduct strategist at Lambda Legal’s New York City office. Lambda Legal is my second home. It was the reason I moved to NYC years ago — to be a Help Desk specialist. Later, I came back as an attorney.
In mid-March, my husband Alfonso and I became ill with what we thought were Spring allergies, but what we now know are the tell-tale signs of COVID-19. For us, it started as a scratchy throat. The fever and chills hit a few days later.
We experienced a week of constant fever, aches and pains, tiredness, and loss of appetite. Immediately, we called our doctor, a gay man, to schedule a tele-appointment. He discussed with us the importance of staying inside, resting, and keeping hydrated. If we had trouble breathing, we should go to the emergency room.
We followed the news and social media for any info about the coronavirus, and with hope that today would be the day there would be some good news. My husband’s condition worsened over the next week. His fever spiked four nights in a row and the chills never really went away.
Throughout those two weeks, having access to medical care was lifesaving. And as we recover, our doctor has kept us updated on antibody testing and information about the pandemic. Just as important to our medical care, access to mental health services has also been crucial to our recovery. We are two of the lucky ones.
Personally, my neighborhood has been devastated by the pandemic. In Queens, New York, the epicenter of the pandemic, too many of our neighbors — LGBTQ people, immigrants, elderly people, and many without healthcare — have died. Our community is grieving the deaths of many, including Lorena Borjas, a transgender immigrant activist. This pandemic has made it painfully clear that access to health care is critical for the entire LGBTQ community and everyone living with HIV.
Health care is a human right. For years, Lambda Legal has fought for our community to have access to health care that is nondiscriminatory and culturally competent. We have fought for health care for poor people, for young people, for incarcerated people, and for workers. As we face a pandemic at a level few could have ever imagined experiencing in our lifetime, we must ensure that anyone who needs health care has it.
With stay-at-home orders in place, many of us have adapted to working from home, but miss our colleagues dearly. As a Lambda Legal attorney, I know that challenges to undermine our community’s rights continue — be it at home or in the office. Lambda Legal is in the courts and in statehouses fighting against discrimination and anti-LGBTQ bias for trans youth, incarcerated LGBTQ people, our elders, immigrants in detention facilities, and people living with HIV. We are also fighting for the expansion of Medicaid.