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.

STD Awareness Month is here, along with the alarming news that sexually transmitted diseases are on the rise. Recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis show surprising and unfortunate numbers, with cases of all three diseases increasing for the first time since 2006.

Every February, the prevention team at Mazzoni Center observes National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day with educational programming, outreach activities and HIV testing at events and in neighborhoods throughout Philadelphia. February 7 has passed but, for people living with HIV, every day brings awareness to the virus and the stigma that still exist.

New Year’s resolutions are notoriously difficult to keep, but that doesn’t stop many of us from making them year after year. Something about the calendar transition forces us to reflect on what aspects of our lives are going well — and which ones could use retooling. 

No matter who you are or how you identify, the holiday season can often produce anxiety and other uncomfortable feelings. For many LGBTQ folks, the holidays are especially hard: facing families who haven’t accepted you, rehashing political or religious differences and perhaps doing so while still managing confusion about your sexuality and gender expressions. I hope that the following advice can help get you through some of these difficult moments.

Without strong emotions, life would have far less meaning. We wouldn’t be excited about new friendships or romantic relationships. We wouldn’t be motivated to engage in important political action. A life dedicated to avoiding strong emotions would be devoid of inspiration.

As a newer member of the team at Mazzoni Center Family and Community Medicine, I’m frequently scheduled to see new patients. In many ways, this provides me with a unique vantage into the populations we serve. I am consistently struck by the high number of patients, especially women, who tell me they haven’t seen a health-care provider in many years, or they have delayed necessary medical care due to inconsistent insurance coverage or negative experiences with the health-care system. Given what I know about the mainstream health-care system, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. 

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