32 Attend First Program
“Whenever a segment of the community is not accepted stress often creates health disparities such as higher rates of alcoholism, drug abuse, tobacco use, and obesity,” says Rebecca Fox, director, National Coalition on LGBT Health. Fox headlined AIDS Community Alliance’s LGBT Health Priorities Forum June 9 at the Unitarian Church of Harrisburg.
Thirty-two people, some representing services and organizations, attended the program on lgbt health issues. ACA recently engaged numerous community organizations in discussions around the agency’s new LGBT Community Health Initiative.
The next free program is Wed., Aug. 11, 7 p.m. at MCC of the Spirit, Harrisburg on “Lesbian Health Challenges”. Info: 1-800-867-1550
“Let me say clearly that our traditional core services to HIV/AIDS clients is intact, will remain intact, and will continue and expand as usual. We are adding lgbt health issues to our mission not subtracting services,” explains Phil Goropoulos, ACA’s President/CEO.
“We believe the organization has the skills, resources and partnerships necessary to improve health outcomes in eight areas that were highlighted by the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association in its companion document to Healthy People 2010: HIV/AIDS, Sexually Transmitted Infections, Immunizations & Infectious Diseases, Health Communication, Access to Quality Health Services, Mental Health & Mental Disorders, Substance Abuse, and Cancer.
Although the lgbt people are often excluded from the life of the community “We know that we are a strong community with support mechanisms,” Fox says. The more an individual is “out” the better chance for a positive mental health and general health outlook, she notes.
Fox says that the lgbt community still has work to do even with national healthcare reform underway. “We won’t have data collection under reform,” Fox says, meaning that health disparities won’t be measured as a part of reform policy. “Many in the community are uninsured and/or underinsured and this needs to be addressed,” Fox says.
Locally, ACA hopes to step in and partially address lgbt health issues.
In the first year of ACA’s LGBT Community Health Initiative, programming will address the disparities in sexually transmitted infections, immunization and infectious diseases. “We will also begin a communication program around lgbt health issues which will, of course, include these disparities among other lgbt-related health issues,” Goropoulos says.
Also during this first year, “We will begin investigation into the means and best practices of addressing lgbt access to quality health services,” Goropoulos says. “Our meetings with community stakeholders stressed the importance of adding services to address mental health and mental disorders as quickly as possible to the Initiative’s efforts. We will work toward this goal as speedily as possible,” he says.
To date, ACA has secured a Preferred Provider Agreement from the Pennsylvania Department of Health Division of STDs to being screening for syphilis. Members of ACA’s staff are to be trained during the next few weeks with the hope that the service should be in place by Central PA Pride Festival July 23–25. In addition, the Agency has begun the process of securing the staffing, training and appropriate contracts to add testing and treatment for Gonorrhea and Chlamydia . ACA hopes to incorporate the full array of STD screenings and treatment options into the Agency’s community-based testing program that currently provides HIV Rapid Testing at locations throughout the region.
ACA has been in communication with the division of the Department of Health responsible for immunizations. The department is interested in partnering with ACA for the provision of Hepatitis A and B vaccine and ACA is in the process of securing a medical director to oversee the program. “Once the director is in place, the application process may move forward. The Hepatitis A and B vaccine will be provided by the Department of Health at no cost to ACA,” Goropoulos says. In addition to Hepatitis A and B, the agency is exploring the addition of HPV vaccinations for both men and women through the program.
As part of its research, the agency has visited the Hartford Gay and Lesbian Health Collective and is planning a visit to the Mazzoni Center in Philadelphia. Regarding the addition of mental health services, the agency will be meeting with Pittsburgh’s Persad Center to discuss mental health service delivery and models that have been effective as it has evolved over the years.
“We are planning to potentially do some surveying during Pride (both in Lancaster and Harrisburg). In addition, if you are a trained phlebotomist / nurse and would be willing to assist with blood draws for syphilis screenings at Harrisburg Pride please let ACA know calling 717.233.7190.
Contact: Phil Goropoulos, President/CEO, AIDS Community Alliance, 100 North Cameron Street, Ste. 301-East, Harrisburg, PA 17101, 717.233.7190, fax: 717.233.7196