Connecticut Voice

Your LGBTQ+ Voice

Pride, Health, and Trust: Navigating Connecticut’s Diverse Tapestry

By Maria Lino


If there’s one positive lesson to glean from pandemic times, it’s the realization that life’s challenges demand a collective response. First, there was COVID, with its multiple waves and accompanying guidelines. Soon after, “monkeypox” or “la viruela del mono” emerged—swiftly evolving into “mpox”—posing the challenge of reaching a specific vulnerable population: the LGBTQ+ community.

The healthcare system found itself compelled to craft an awareness message emphasizing prevention, action, and risk without resorting to stereotypical messages. This community, throughout its history, has consistently fought against stereotypes, making it imperative to approach health communication with sensitivity and nuance.

Leveraging our expertise in marketing and communications, we have collaborated with the State of Connecticut to implement communication and outreach efforts for many underserved communities, and the consistent source of messaging comes from a fundamental principle: Is the message crafted considering the reality and daily struggles of the affected communities? Are we building messages that make sense for these groups? Have we heard them first?

This principle of awareness has to be extended to all communities and all their prisms of life. Last year, amid the challenges posed by “mpox” in the LGBTQ+ communities, our strategy for effective yet sensitive outreach found its strength in organic partnerships. We placed our trust in partners to deploy a co-branded message, commencing with prevention, followed by a call to action for people to get vaccinated, promptly, and at no cost.

Promoting vaccination becomes a daunting task without a seal of trust. You need to build connections from the ground, and yet, not an easy task; building trust is achievable by paving a way of understanding in both ways.

In 2023, under the leadership of CT DPH and in collaboration with Griffin Health and Harriott Home Health, the mpox prevention message was disseminated across ten significant community events in ten different cities in Connecticut. Health experts were present at these events, addressing audience questions and any concerns regarding vaccination and health. Meanwhile, partners and organizers actively supported the message on stage, through social media channels, and by generating organic content on the event day.

Interesting interactions, body languages, and facial expressions: “I already did it,” “Me da miedo,” “I did one shot, didn’t know I need a second,” “I don’t have insurance,” “Not now, but thanks for the info.” From outstanding yeses to fearful noes, communication started, and that’s the right step for more.

As a team, it was an enriching summer spent dedicating many of my weekends to every city in the state, celebrating both Pride and Health simultaneously.

It was a great post-COVID season, embracing the community’s health and access while celebrating diversity—a significant step towards more communication and increased deployment of resources to every community in need. LGBTQ+ has been part of the plan, and it is strengthening its growing share of participation and voice in the tapestry of priorities in the State.

Maria Lino is the principal at The Latino Way, a marketing agency based in East Hartford. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the official views or statements of the State of CT or its health partners.