The Hartford Gay & Lesbian Health Collective is proudly open for business – the business of providing health care services, information, and referrals to our LGBTQ community.
In fact, we’ve been open since that week in March when all of our lives were so drastically changed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Safety dictated that we first pivot primarily to remote services – our hardworking staff staying connected with clients via telehealth: phone calls, Zoom meetings and emails.
But urgency dictated that there be no interruption in emergency dental appointments, to the relief of many who have suffered excruciating pain or genuine emergencies in the last six months. We continued to do: HIV tests, providing home test kits with tele-health counseling; STD screening (combining at-home urine collection with in-person delivery); giving vaccines; and providing information and referrals.
We all learned to provide care in a brand new way – with masks and shields, learning new protocols, devising safe ways for everyone to get in and out of the building and rearranging waiting areas. And cleaning – so much cleaning. And reorganizing.
Every staff member, including me (Linda), participated in planning and implementing the changes required to acquire and store the significantly increased amount of PPE needed for service delivery, and the installation of new safety equipment. It has been a daily team effort. We continue to gain a lot of learning and experience as we sanitize all of our workspaces, surfaces, and equipment many times a day.
One of our organizational values is to make HGLHC a place where community members can be “physically and emotionally safe.” In line with that commitment, our return to in-person services has been careful and gradual. The last thing we want is for any member of the community to become COVID-infected at HGLHC. Taking time to ensure that we are all properly trained and comfortable with new protocols has been critical.
Since March, the staff have been diligently working to adjust how programs and services are conducted. We have distributed 1,480 condoms, seen 220 dental clients, broadcast 20 educational events, and organized volunteers to make and distribute hundreds of protective masks. And, we can’t forget about our 26th annual Queer Prom, put together as a virtual event in a collaborative effort with volunteers and community partners.
But the main thing we want you to know is that we are open, have been open, and will be open. You can schedule tests for HIV, gonorrhea, chlamydia, Hepatitis B and C, and syphilis. You can schedule a pelvic, breast or testicular exam or a pap test. We can give you STD treatment, and PrEP referrals. You can come in for routine dental treatment. Please give us a call. We’re here to help you to be well and be yourself.
Linda Estabrook, MPH, Executive Director
Curtis Porter III, President, Board of Directors