Italian Covid Officials Apologize For Stereotyping Gays As High Risk

Last week in La Spezia, Italy, health authorities sparked outrage with a coronavirus vaccination mandate that categorized gay people as a ‘risky behavior” group.  


It’s no secret that Italy has a reputation of discrimination against the LGBTQ community; its dominant Catholic influence is a crucial factor in that dynamic. In this incident, however, Italian officials apologized for listing homosexuals among prostitutes and drug addicts – as having priority eligibility to receive the coronavirus vaccine due to their ‘high-risk’ lifestyle. 

Among the 29 higher-risk categories to be granted priority access to Covid-19 vaccines were health workers, police officers, firemen, and pregnant women. However, there was a category labeled “risky behavior subjects.”

President Giovanni Toti of Liguria, where La Spezia is located, denounced such a characterization of the LGBTQ, calling the incident “incredible and shameful.” He then directed blame toward the national government, citing the offensive language was part of a form, copied verbatim from an antiquated health ministry document. 

Paolo Cavagnaro, head of the La Spezia health authority, also apologized, offering,


“We recognize it as a clear mistake for which we can only apologize,” said the head of the La Spezia health authority, Paolo Cavagnaro, adding that the form would be corrected.”

Pride community at a parade with hands raised and the LGBT flag / Adobe Stock

According to a Barrons report that originated from the AFP Newsgroup, Ferruccio Sansa, leader of the center-left opposition in Liguria, first publicly admonished the form. He took to Facebook and posted 

“We would like it to be a fake,” Sansa wrote on Facebook, urging the regional government and the local health authority to explain themselves. This demand for accountability led to the public apologies from Toti and Cavagnaro.


In a statement, the ministry said “old and outdated formulations will be immediately corrected” and stressed that sexual orientation had nothing to do with coronavirus infection risks.”

In fairness to Italy as a country, I commend their progressive stance on legalizing same-sex partnerships in 2016. However, this latest incident seems to be rooted in the generalization that all of gay men are promiscuous. This biased viewpoint often vilified gay men for their sexuality at the onslaught of the AIDS epidemic. The apologies are a step in the right direction though, and with the ministry’s updating of “old and outdated formulations,” we can only hope “old and outdated” stereotypes will also finally dissipate. 

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