A New York City health center is addressing the unique needs of LGBT individuals and especially people of color who identify as LGBT.
APICHA Community Health Center, formerly the Asian Pacific Islander Coalition on HIV/AIDS, is striving to provide affordable, comprehensive and culturally competent primary care, preventive health services and mental support to underserved communities.
Founded in 1989 by 6 Japanese-American activists, APICHA began as an all-volunteer HIV prevention organization whose primary services included distributing condoms and HIV prevention literature to gay Asian Pacific Islanders. It has since grown to reach out to other ethnic groups, as well as modernized to address broader concerns within the queer community, in addition to, evolving LGBT trends.
“We saw that our clients needed more,” LGBT Program Manager at APICHA Jay Gabor told 429Magazine. “For example, we found that our patients were not receiving comprehensive health information. We also found that the LGBT community needed better access to vaccinations. We wanted to help.”
APICHA’s services now include a wide range of primary medical care, HIV specialty care, and sexual health services. Patients can have access to chronic disease management for diabetes, hypertension, and Hepatitis B and C such as nutrition and acupuncture, and STD testing and treatment. APICHA also focuses on the very specific health needs of different sexual orientations and gender identities.
Gabor said one critical service right now is providing hormone therapy to transgender individuals. Previously, transgender people had been accessing hormones on the black market, which can be expensive and even dangerous, and receiving an injection in someone’s apartment with a dubious needle was not an uncommon scenario.
“People who are transgender come up to us and say ‘thank you,’” Gabor told 429Magazine.
APICHA tries to “stay on its’ toes” when it comes to approaching the evolving needs of the LGBT community. The health center has a presence on mobile apps such as Grindr, a gay dating site, to promote its HIV testing centers, conducts outreach at bars, clubs, and lounges, and even performs on site HIV testing at private sex parties and bath houses.
APICHA currently serves over 2,500 individuals agency-wide with nearly half identifying as LGBT and a person of color. The health clinic, however, stays committed to its original purpose of supporting the unique needs of Asians who represent about 13 percent of all New York City.
The staff is of Asian and Pacific Islander ancestry and usually speaks multiple Asian languages, which is very helpful to recent Asian immigrants who have problems navigating the American medical system.
Garbor added that so far, APICHA has received only “positive” feedback from patients and the center will continuing staying connected to the LGBT and people of color communities.