On Being Well

Once a month, Mazzoni Center brings you “On Being Well,” a column that aims to address a broad range of health and wellness issues that impact LGBT communities. Mazzoni Center recognizes that wellness means more than just an annual visit to the doctor: It’s about having access to health insurance,and a culturally competent provider who understands your unique health concerns, as well as counseling/mental health and recovery support. It’s about making smart, informed decisions about your body. And it’s also about your social environment, and feeling safe, confident and empowered in your identity and within your community. For more about Mazzoni Center, Philadelphia’s home for LGBT health and well-being, visit www.mazzonicenter.org.


Renewal of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which has provided low-cost health insurance to 9-million children for over a decade now, is in limbo across several states, including here in Pennsylvania. While it looks very likely that the CHIP program will be passed here in Pennsylvania soon, it may come with an amendment that removes trans services for youth. There is a battle to get trans services back into CHIP in Harrisburg, and as of presstime some services were restored, except for surgery. Despite the outcome of this effort, Mazzoni Center will continue to provide service for all youth, ages 14-24, with or without health insurance.

After watching the last episode of “American Horror Story,” a moment during the episode stuck with me for the rest of the night. No, it wasn’t the clowns, but the scene that mentioned PrEP. It was a monumental occasion because this meant that PrEP has finally hit the mainstream media. While this is great for PrEP gaining exposure to a larger audience, the real work of getting the information and services to those who need it is nowhere close to being finished. And this is a journey that many should consider taking.

These three words are the theme of the 16th Annual Philadelphia Trans Health Conference. These words honor the transgender community, which continues overcoming obstacles and moving forward. Some of those obstacles are of a personal nature and may involve self, relationships, families or health. For others, they may be related to age, ability, ethnicity or race. Gender identity and gender expression, along with our diverse individual characteristics, can and often do, call on our reserves of strength and power to preserve as we move forward.

Something’s missing

I was baffled. Was this guy serious? He just asked me if I was “having fun yet” now that I was no longer using drugs or alcohol. “Are you kidding me? Absolutely not,” I said. And, damn, I meant it.

On June 27 we will mark National HIV Testing Day, a federally designated event that has been observed annually on this date since 1995. It is a meaningful one for those of us who work at Mazzoni Center, since HIV testing, counseling, medical care and supportive services have been a core element of our history and organizational purpose for decades, and continue to be a central focus of our day-to-day work.

As readers of PGN are aware, Mazzoni Center is currently in the midst of several major transitions. The recent departure of our longtime CEO Nurit Shein, as well as former board president Jimmy Ruiz, MD, and medical director Robert Winn, MD, represent a major turning point, and also an opportunity for us to examine our goals and core values, and to chart a course that will carry us into the next phase of our organizational journey. 

Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is the newest and most promising biomedical HIV-prevention intervention to date.  PrEP has been shown to be anywhere from 92-99-percent effective at preventing HIV transmission. In short, it is a game-changing prevention tool with the potential to dramatically impact rates of new HIV infection and potentially even bring an end to HIV in our lifetimes.  

Uncertainty is a feeling many of us have experienced in recent months. It’s been a fixture in news headlines, driven by the political upheaval that has followed last November’s election. This kind of macro-level uncertainty can absolutely affect how we feel in our everyday lives. And of course there are numerous personal examples — a job loss, a break-up, a move — where a sense of uncertainty about the future can create real anxiety that impacts our mental and physical health in a tangible way.

With so much happening in our political system at the moment, it can be difficult to keep up with each new development. The fact is that under the new presidential administration, there are many reasons for LGBTQ Americans, and other marginalized communities, to be concerned. This week we’re looking at the Affordable Care Act, and what a repeal of this legislation would actually mean, both in the broader picture and specifically for LGBTQ Americans.

Earlier this month, the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) released the results of the U.S. Trans Survey (USTS), which, at 28,000 respondents, is the largest survey ever devoted to the lives and experiences of trans people. The USTS was a follow-up to the groundbreaking National Transgender Discrimination Survey, which was collected in 2008 and 2009 by the NCTE in partnership with the National LGBTQ Task Force.

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