The Philadelphia Department of Public Health has created new positions to help LGBT people link up with health services. Trans activist Deja Lynn Alvarez has been hired to fill a role as assistant prevention navigator, starting May 2.
It’s part of the MSM of Color Demonstration, a four-year project funded by the grant that Public Health received in September from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help men of color with HIV. Alvarez is one of eight people hired as an assistant prevention navigator reporting to a prevention navigator.
“Given the high rates of HIV among [men who have sex with men] of color, we are excited with the hiring of navigation staff to begin this project,” said Jeff Moran, spokesman for Public Health. “We hope to continue to make an impact on the HIV epidemic in Philadelphia.”
“The idea is about preventative services and remodeling what prevention looks like,” Alvarez said. “Prevention is not just about giving out condoms anymore. It’s someone’s whole well-being.”
Alvarez will continue as director of Divine Light LGBTQ Wellness Center, for which she currently does not take a paycheck due to limited funding. She said staff would help her keep the center on track. She also works with the Trans-Health Information Project at GALAEI: A Queer Latin@ Social Justice Organization.
Alvarez’s position with Public Health will be full-time. She will maintain an office at the Municipal Services Building, 1401 John F. Kennedy Blvd. She said she’d meet with LGBT people, both remotely and in the office, and find out what their previous barriers to care have been before helping them set up appointments with providers or access other services.
“It’s kind of like what I’m already doing but just in an official capacity,” she said, noting the first thing she does with new residents at the Divine Light shelter is to assess their health needs.
Alvarez said she previously relied on contacts within city departments to help her navigate the system, but now she can work more efficiently as a representative of a city department.
“There won’t be a whole lot of waiting anymore,” she said. “It’s going to allow me to connect more people to resources.”