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Life, liberty and health care for all

Commentary: Guest Commentary

The Hillcrest Family Health Center at 4094 Fourth Ave.

For decades, San Diego’s vibrant and eclectic LGBTQ community has come together each summer to celebrate its uniqueness, diversity and achievements while acknowledging the struggles it still faces. From the historic Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage across the country and the growing visibility of the transgender rights movement, to the emergence of medication that has proven effective in stopping the spread of HIV, there has been much to celebrate in recent years. However, this year’s Pride celebrations will take on a new meaning as these momentous victories fade amid political uncertainty that has gripped our nation.

One cause for concern among many Americans, including those in the LGBTQ community, is continued access to quality, low-cost health care. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) ushered in a new era of equality, ensuring that for the first time in our nation’s history, health care was a right for all individuals, not a privilege reserved for a select few. It helped 17.6 million Americans who were previously uninsured gain access to health insurance and helped push the percentage of uninsured Americans to below 10 percent, the lowest rate it has ever been. It also created a list of essential benefits that required insurance health plans to standardize the care all individuals received. These benefits include covering pre-existing conditions, providing prenatal and newborn care for women, covering the costs of prescription drugs and offering preventive and wellness services to help detect serious diseases earlier to improve health care outcomes.

Unfortunately, Congress and the new administration have promised to repeal the ACA and replace it with a plan that could make it more difficult for many Americans, including many in the LGBTQ community, to access affordable health care. Their proposed plans include charging more for individuals who are over the age of 65, as well as those with pre-existing conditions, such as breast cancer, diabetes, HIV and heart disease. In addition, proposed Medicaid cuts could significantly impact low-income individuals and families and their ability to afford lifesaving treatment and services. Indeed, for the millions of Americans who will lose their health insurance or face economic hurdles to obtaining an affordable plan, the possibility of a serious diagnosis or injury will be downright frightening.

But in difficult and uncertain times, Family Health Centers of San Diego (FHCSD) have always been at the forefront of ensuring individuals in underserved communities have access to the high-quality, comprehensive care they need. At the height of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, FHCSD staff began treating patients who had been diagnosed with HIV. And in 1994, at a time when the federal government was denying HIV-positive individuals entry into our country, FHCSD opened Ciaccio Memorial Clinic in North Park, the first HIV treatment center in San Diego. We were also one of the first San Diego health care organizations to provide dental services specifically for individuals who were HIV positive. Today, we are the largest health care provider of comprehensive HIV services in San Diego County – from prevention, education and testing to counseling and treatment.

We recently opened one of our newest clinics, Hillcrest Family Health Center, in the heart of San Diego’s thriving gay neighborhood, where we offer primary care services, including wellness exams and screenings for blood pressure, diabetes and breast cancer. In addition, we now bring our Mobile Medical Unit to the LGBT Community Center every Monday afternoon, where we provide comprehensive services, including PrEP prescriptions, STD screenings and treatment, breast cancer screenings, Pap smears, sick visits and hormone therapy. We also conduct outreach campaigns throughout San Diego to assist LGBTQ individuals with sexual health education and insurance enrollment.

Throughout the last three decades, we have forged new paths for LGBTQ individuals to receive the care they need. We were one of the first organizations to provide monitored hormone therapy to transgender individuals and started San Diego’s first Transgender Day of Empowerment. Today, we provide comprehensive transgender services, from trans-specific PrEP navigation to mental health counseling for those who are transitioning. We also created Solutions for Recovery, a LGBTQ-specialized outpatient substance abuse treatment program to help those who need help with their physical and psychological dependence on drugs and alcohol.

No matter what happens, our network of community health centers across San Diego County will always be here to provide you and your family with high-quality comprehensive health care services in a warm and welcoming environment. For more than 45 years, we have served as a social safety net for hundreds of thousands of San Diegans who faced obstacles to accessing care. Nothing will change that.

Short URL: http://lgbtweekly.com/?p=80903

Posted by on Jul 6, 2017. Filed under Bottom Highlights, Commentary, Latest Issue. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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