It really does get better—queer male health services in East Vancouver are getting a boost.
Health Initiative for Men announced Wednesday (February 6) that their East Side clinic is moving a block away from its previous location and adding a greater range of services.
In August 2011, HIM opened up HIM on the Drive (1723 Grant Street), a pilot program satellite sexual health centre consisting of a treatment room with a waiting area. Only nursing services for HIV- and STI-testing (from Seek and Treat for Optimal Prevention of HIV/AIDS) have been available there thus far.
"We received money to do a pilot…and we really wanted to see how the community would respond, and whether guys were interested in coming to another location," HIM executive director Wayne Robert told the Georgia Straight by phone. "And it started off relatively slowly, and then as it began to grow and as we began to fill up all of those spaces, it really was looked at as saying 'Okay, this is really now a full-sized HIM clinic as far as the sexual health services.' And so we wanted to make sure that the rest of the services that we offer down on Davie Street were also available down on Commercial Drive."
The new location, at 101–1416 Commercial Drive, opens on February 18, with the same operating hours (Monday and Tuesday, 4 to 8 p.m.). (Unfortunately, it's not wheelchair accessible but the downtown location is.) The larger space includes two counselling rooms to provide mental and emotional health services that are already offered at the downtown location. The new location (which is 550 square feet, compared to the previous spot which was 200 square feet; the Davie clinic is 692 square feet) will also help to alleviate demand at the Davie Street location, which is open six days a week.
Based on questionnaires given out to clinic visitors, Robert noted that they've observed some interesting differences between guys who use the two locations. East Side clients tend to be younger: 35 percent of those who use the Davie Street clinic are under 30 compared with 52 percent who use the Drive location. What's more, West End clients tend to identify more as gay (78 percent gay, 13 percent bisexual, 8 percent straight, 1 percent queer) while Drive clients tend to identify less so (66 percent gay, 16 percent bisexual, and 10 percent straight, 5 percent queer).
With increasing geographic diversity of queer male communities, Robert also noted that guys come not only from all over the Lower Mainland but also from all over province, some even from Whitehorse.
Robert also noted that clients seeking to avoid familiar faces sometimes prefer different clinic locations outside their neighbourhoods.
While there are other sexual health clinics throughout the city, HIM's clinics do specialize in information about same-sex sexual activity. HIM also offers rapid HIV testing (in which results for a person's status 40 to 60 days prior are given during the same appointment) and the Nucleic Acid Amplification Test (which provides results within 10 days of infection before a body has been able to produce antibodies).
As for HIM's other services available at the West End location, which include social support groups and fitness programs, Robert explained that those were collaborations initiated by community members. He said that like the Davie Village location, they will respond to interest and initiatives in East Vancouver as well.
"Really, we want to encourage that capacity building in the community for guys to actually take charge of these kinds of things," he said. "So guys on the East Side have been coming forward and talking to us, and that's certainly something we can do on the East Side….We’re really open to what the community comes forward with what they want."