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.


This time of year is both incredibly busy and exciting for all of us at Mazzoni Center as we prepare to present the annual Philadelphia Trans-Health Conference, which takes place June 4-6 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. This event got its start back in 2002 as a small, grassroots gathering at a Quaker Meeting House. Last year, the conference spanned three full days and drew more than 3,200 people from around the United States and beyond.

When I first walked through the doors, I faced a daunting challenge. The year was 1995. I had recently relocated from Los Angeles to the East Coast with my wife to be near family. I was approached about the opportunity to lead an organization that provided vital health care and HIV-related services to Philadelphia’s LGBT community.

This week we mark the 13th-annual LGBT Health Awareness Week, which this year is focused on the theme of “Time to Come Together: Trust, Transparency, Truth.” It’s a very personal connection for me, as I was one of the founding members of the National Coalition for LGBT Health, the organization that sponsors this annual event. Our coalition is comprised of leaders from national and state LGBT organizations, health centers, health departments, universities, health organizations, clinical and behavioral-health providers and LGBT individuals and allies.

A few months ago, a member of our #A1PHA community at Mazzoni Center came in for assistance in writing his résumé. In teaching him the skills to write a great résumé, we had a conversation about his past, as well as his goals. He shared the story of how he left his family at a

The New Year is a time for many people to make resolutions — and among the most popular (and most frequently un-kept) every year is the pledge to quit smoking. Philadelphia has the highest smoking rate of any major city in the country. In the LGBT communities, where rates of tobacco use are significantly

Say the word “holidays” this time of year and you’re likely to get a host of different responses — from love to hate to feelings of stress and obligation. It’s easy to recognize the heightened expectations that surround this time of year — to feel holiday cheer, to spend money we may not have, to be happy, to be thankful, to

As a family doctor, I take care of a lot of men. Far too many have suffered from prostate and testicular cancer — and far too few are knowledgeable about the subjects. My hope is to change that, and to shift the focus of research to earlier detection and finding better treatments. So I have gone against the grain and

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It’s hard to imagine there are many people not aware of this fact. Thanks to some incredibly successful awareness-raising efforts in recent years, we have become accustomed to seeing pink ribbons in all kinds of places — from ballpoint pens to water bottles, running shoes to NFL jerseys — even drill bits.

In last month’s column (“The Real Impact: Being black, gay and wanting change”), we asked, “What’s it like being a young black gay man in a big metropolitan city like Philadelphia?” We touched on some of the challenges that face black gay culture, especially the HIV epidemic. While black people make up 12.2 percent of the American population, the black community makes up 44.2 percent of people living with HIV in America. And young men of color who have sex with men are the group at highest risk of HIV infection. That’s just one aspect of our world, but it’s a reality we are working to change.

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