HQ gets innovative with how guys into guys and all trans and non-binary people get tested
Open today, the clinic is the first to combine mental, sexual and social health into one centre for the queer community.
July 26, 2022 — [Toronto] Toronto is home to one of the country’s largest populations of gay, bi, and queer guys, and a vibrant trans and non-binary community. It also has the highest prevalence of HIV in Ontario with a majority of new diagnoses among gay and bisexual men who have sex with men. Yet Toronto is one of the only major cities in North America without a centre of excellence dedicated to providing integrated health services to this demographic.
Enter HQ Health Hub (“HQ”) at 790 Bay Street — a health centre for guys into guys and all trans and non-binary people, which offers services holistically, combining mental, sexual and social health under one roof.
HQ will offer innovative sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections (STBBI) testing, including express HIV testing, same-day treatment, and private facilities for STI self-swabbing. Research conducted at the new centre will ensure services evolve and improve to meet changing needs, allowing HQ’s approach (including its leading-edge IT and testing methods) to be shared with researchers and health care providers in Canada and around the world.
"HQ offers self-testing options in rooms with touchscreens that provide guidance in multiple languages,” says Kevin Woodward, HQ’s director of sexual health. "Together with a state-of-the-art on-site lab, and the ability to initiate treatment for HIV and to prescribe PrEP and PEP rapidly, HQ is making sexual health care a lot more accessible for the community. Including walk-in self-testing is one way to reduce barriers in accessing care."
HQ offers a stepped-care approach to rapidly match service users with the intensity of mental health and substance use care they need. Stepped-care aims to provide the right care at the right time for each individual, with the goal of providing rapid care and reducing waitlists.
“Decades of research tell us that sexual health, mental health, and substance use are all interconnected,” says Tim Guimond, HQ’s director of mental health. "We may have people who are coming here just for sexual health screening, who in the course of talking to them, may reveal significant mental health needs. Rather than having those people leave and have to seek mental health services elsewhere, they can be initiated into care right here at HQ."
HQ will be a hub that supports service users in connecting, building community and sharing knowledge. HQ and other partners will provide programming that addresses the loneliness and isolation that many queer, trans and non-binary people experience. This will include a community space for a variety of educational workshops, poetry readings, book clubs, art events, and coffee nights. Wellness seminars and life and stress management classes will also be part of HQ’s offerings. A specialized room has been developed for spiritual services, including Indigenous smudging ceremonies.
“Queer folks typically exist in a realm where we don’t see ourselves represented in the work we do or in the health care sector,” says Osmel Maynes, HQ’s director of organizational development, community and culture. “At HQ, we see folks for who they are, with no judgement. We provide a space, a community, and most importantly, a home.”
HQ is a non-profit organization that collaborates with community clinicians and well-established partner organizations that lead in offering social support and health services to Toronto’s diverse queer and trans communities. Our partners are: 2-Spirited People of the First Nations, AIDS Committee of Toronto (ACT), Action positive, Alliance for South Asian AIDS Prevention (ASAAP), Asian Community AIDS Services (ACAS), Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention (BlackCAP), Hassle Free Clinic, Ontario HIV Treatment Network, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), and Centre for Spanish- Speaking People. Through community partnerships, HQ aims to close gaps in sexual, mental, and social health services.
“HQ will be an example for other organizations, in terms of integrating services,” says Asya Medea, a PhD student in Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at York University and a transgender woman who feels HQ will benefit her. “It’s important that mental health services be integrated with sexual health services, as anxiety, worry and depression often come when we talk about sexual health. It's also challenging for a newcomer like me to coordinate services in many different places, not to mention the fear of being discriminated against."
HQ recognizes the tremendous contributions and assistance from CANFAR and the P. Austin Foundation.
Readers can visit hqtoronto.ca and follow HQ on social media @myhqtoronto on Instagram and Twitter and “HQ Toronto” on Facebook and LinkedIn for information on services and hours of operation.
HQ Health Hub
HQ Health Hub at 790 Bay St. is an easily accessible, safe, welcoming space for cis guys into guys and all trans and non-binary people, regardless of age, race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, HIV status, socio-economic status, immigration status or ability.
“HQ” can stand for many things: “Head Quarters,” “Happy Queen,” “Highly Qualified,” “Here and Queer,” etc. The name’s openness to interpretation underscores HQ’s commitment to the diverse service users who will find different value in the facility.
Senior Lead, Communications and KTE
Ontario HIV Treatment Network (OHTN)
firstname.lastname@example.org (647) 999-2440+