Last week, Maine reached another milestone. Gov. Mills announced Wednesday that over 80 percent of Mainers age 12 and older have received at least one dose of a vaccine against COVID-19. Maine is one of nine states in the nation to reach this.

National surveys, collected as part of the annual LGBTQ+ Community Survey by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation in partnership with The Rockefeller Foundation, suggest the LGBTQ+ community has done even better. A recent report indicates that 92 percent of LGBTQ+ adults surveyed have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine as of July. This is an impressive figure.

Given the history of LGBTQ+ Americans advocating for access to equal rights, including access to medical care, this figure is heartening.

Back in the early 1980s, LGBTQ+ Americans were on the front lines of another virus, HIV/AIDS. Americans were losing loved ones to a disease we did not yet know much about. Many were afraid. In the United States, it took years of pressure on federal and state governments to mount resources to adequately address this virus. Many LGBTQ+ Americans became advocates, pushing lawmakers and the public to realize the severity of the virus. Thanks to this advocacy and advances in science, today preventive medication that reduces risk of transmission is available.

But barriers to medical treatment still exist. We recognize it is not always easy or affordable for everyone to access health care. That is why vaccination against COVID-19 is free and Maine has made it available in every county along with a free ride service. For information on getting vaccinated, visit, or call 1-888-445-4111.

The work to remove these barriers continues. Maine made history this year when Gov. Mills Signed L.D. 1115, An Act to Improve Access to HIV Prevention Medications, into law. This legislation expands access to the simple, safe and effective medication known as HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), which significantly reduces the risk of HIV transmission. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Heather Sanborn of Portland and co-sponsored by House Speaker Ryan Fecteau of Biddeford, earned bipartisan support in the Legislature. As a result of this law, state insurance plans must cover the costs of the treatment, giving more Mainers access to protection against the virus.

This weekend, we stood in front of several hundred Mainers at the Equality Maine Gala to celebrate the progress Maine’s LGBTQ+ community has made, and to spotlight the work ahead until each and every LGBTQ+ Mainer can live their authentic life, free from discrimination, prejudice, bias and violence. It was a powerful evening.

That gathering was possible because of progress Maine has made in the fight against COVID-19. The annual event, normally held indoors, moved to an outdoor setting at Thompson’s Point. This kind of flexibility and innovation is just what we are seeing in Maine schools, businesses and within families as we keep adjusting to each new challenge this pandemic throws at us. It’s inspiring. It’s important. We are all in this together.

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