HARTFORD, Conn. — This month, in honor of LGBTQ+ Pride, FOX61 is featuring organizations that serve the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community in Connecticut.
Some you may have heard of, some are more in the background.
First up, the Hartford Gay and Lesbian Health Collective. HGLHC’s main office is located at 1841 Broad Street, and a satellite office is at 64 Church Street In Manchester.
What is the mission of your organization?
The Hartford Gay & Lesbian Health Collective empowers individuals of diverse sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions to lead healthy lives through the provision of health and support services, education and advocacy.
When was it founded and by whom?
The Hartford Gay and Lesbian Health Collective (HGLHC) was founded in 1983 to put “gay health in gay hands” and to empower a population devastated by the spread of HIV/AIDS. Originally staffed by volunteer health professionals, we worked to address, anticipate, and respond to the comprehensive health needs of our clients. More than 35 years later, HGLHC is a fully licensed outpatient clinic employing professional staff and offering a range of health and wellness services to clients ranging in age from 16 to over 70.
How did the COVID-19 pandemic impact the organization?
The Hartford Gay & Lesbian Health Collective was proudly open for business during the pandemic. The business of providing health care services, information, and referrals to our LGBTQ community.
We were open since that week in March when all of our lives were so drastically changed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Safety dictated that we first pivot primarily to remote services – our hardworking staff staying connected with clients via telehealth: phone calls, Zoom meetings and emails.
But urgency dictated that there be no interruption in emergency dental appointments, to the relief of many who have suffered excruciating pain or genuine emergencies in the last six months. We continued to do: HIV tests, providing home test kits with telehealth counseling; STD screening (combining at-home urine collection with in-person delivery); giving vaccines; and providing information and referrals.
We all learned to provide care in a brand-new way – with masks and shields, learning new protocols, devising safe ways for everyone to get in and out of the building and rearranging waiting areas. And cleaning – so much cleaning. And reorganizing.
Every staff member participated in planning and implementing the changes required to acquire and store the significantly increased amount of PPE needed for service delivery, and the installation of new safety equipment. It has been a daily team effort. We continue to gain a lot of learning and experience as we sanitize all our workspaces, surfaces, and equipment many times a day.
One of our organizational values is to make HGLHC a place where community members can be “physically and emotionally safe.” In line with that commitment, our return to in-person services had been careful and gradual. The last thing we want is for any member of the community to become COVID-infected at HGLHC. Taking time to ensure that we are all properly trained and comfortable with new protocols has been critical.
Beginning in March 2020, the staff have been diligently working to adjust how programs and services are conducted. We have distributed 1,480 condoms, seen 220 dental clients, broadcast 20 educational events, and organized volunteers to make and distribute hundreds of protective masks. And, we can’t forget about our 26th annual Queer Prom, put together as a virtual event in a collaborative effort with volunteers and community partners.
But the main thing we want you to know is that we are open, have been open, and will be open. You can schedule tests for HIV, gonorrhea, chlamydia, Hepatitis B and C, and syphilis. You can schedule a pelvic, breast or testicular exam or a pap test. We can give you STD treatment, and PrEP referrals. You can come in for routine dental treatment. Please give us a call. We’re here to help you to be well and be yourself.
What is one misunderstanding that you want to clear up about what you do?
It is more a misunderstanding about who we are. We often get confused with other LGBTQ organizations in the state. While we collaborate with many organizations, we are an independent nonprofit organization.
If you had a magic wand, what would you do to change Connecticut for the better?
More services for transgender individuals and more transgender acceptance.
What are some great things about the LGBTQ+ community?
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