September 20, 2013
Gay Men's Health Collaborative (GMHC) hoped to become a driving force in providing resources and services to Northern Virginia's lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community, thus filling the void left by the closure this summer of another organization that once provided those services. Based in Inova Fairfax Hospital in Falls Church, Va., GMHC provides intervention and prevention services as well as hosting and supporting social opportunities. According to James Leslie, an HIV-health educator and gay men's health coordinator at Inova Fairfax Hospital, social opportunities for LGBT people outside of bars was sparse, especially for gay, bisexual, and transgender (GBT) men, whose rates of HIV infection were high.
GMHC's dual approach would facilitate programs that focused on HIV prevention and health as well as building self-esteem and support their mental and emotional well-being. It will hold bi-weekly HIV and STD testing on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month at several Northern Virginia locations. Social events, meant to provide GBT men an opportunity to make friends and build support systems, would focus on no-alcohol activities, including bowling, movie and game nights, and a visit to a local waterpark. "We want to have a space for people outside the city that's not a bar," said Leslie.
A grant from the Virginia Department of Health and private donations will fund GMHC's activities; Leslie hoped the Department of Health would renew the grant as long as he could show the need for such prevention and support services.