Pride promotes health in NYC under the pressure of budget cuts

Pride promotes health in NYC under the pressure of budget cuts
LGBTQ

Activists organize an annual Health Fair as major New York City healthcare cutbacks drastically threaten healthcare services offered to the LGBTQ+ community. With inadequate funding and assistance from the government, LGBTQ+ legacy activist groups are working to advance resources, awareness, education, and access to health services. The Health Fair is a product “of the dire need for community health during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Community health comes to the forefront when it is centered at such a reflective point in the year: Pride.
For these LGBTQ+ New Yorkers, Pride is about knowledge sharing, looking beyond celebration and into the intergenerational health of the vast LGBTQ community.

Kendall Martinez-Wright, who tabled at the event, agrees. Martinez-Wright is the government relations and policy associate at Treatment Action Group (TAG).

TAG's table at the health fair
Lana Leonard TAG’s table at the health fair

“Healthcare and Pride is one area where it is important for all individuals to not only know their [HIV] status, but also maintain a healthy community,” Martinez-Wright told LGBTQ Nation.

This is why the Health Fair has continued every year since 2021.

“Whether it’s COVID-19, HIV, tuberculosis,” said Martinez-Wright. “With Pride, we have to make sure that we let people know, [and] to make sure your health is top priority.”

TAG grew out of the AIDS crisis, originally starting out as a working group in ACT UP NY. For three years, ACT UP NY and TAG have convened health organizations like Callen-Lorde, Physicians for a National Health Program New York, NYU Langone Health, and others to share community resources and roll out COVID-19 and MPOX vaccines, sex education, personal protective equipment (PPE) like medical masks, HIV services, and harm reduction services like xylazine (known as tranq) and fentanyl drug testing strips.

Fentanyl test strips being handed out at the health fair
Lana Leonard Fentanyl test strips being handed out at the health fair

With a nod to their roots, ACT UP and TAG were intentional about the Health Fair’s location. They organized it outside Judson Memorial Church on Thompson Street. The church was one of the first places in the mid-1980s that allowed people with AIDS, their families, and activists to gather to honor those who passed away from AIDS.

In fact, TAG originated in the AIDS activist organization, ACT UP NY. In January 1992, members of the Treatment and Data Committee of ACT UP left ACT UP to create a nonprofit organization focused on accelerating treatment research. Martinez-Wright came to TAG as a legislative strategist, but in her past career in Missouri, she focused on public health and fighting for human rights.

“I was gravitated towards the advocacy area of making awareness of the historic or disenfranchisement of specific communities not only within the LGBTQ community as a whole, but with other communities, such as persons of color, Black and brown individuals, women, children in regards to an HIV, tuberculosis, and hepatitis,” Martinez-Wright continued.

The health expert wants to make awareness of diseases and illnesses a priority in our society so that they can be eradicated. That’s why she is partnering with ACT UP NY.

New York City has been particularly hit by health care cuts, some of which have come undone.

“Instead of bolstering our public health system’s crumbling infrastructure, Mayor [Eric] Adams has decided that the people of New York City can be healed through bullets and handcuffs, cutting over $75 million from the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) in order to fund a pet project, a $225 million dollar Cop City in College Point, Queens,” ACT UP NY said in a statement to LGBTQ Nation.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams (D) recently announced plans to construct an NYPD Police Training Academy campus in 2026–also known as Cop City–in College Point Queens.

Organizers say that while the $5.3 million in HIV/AIDS funding is back, distrust continues to mount for the Adams administration. As a result, ACT UP NY wants to see greater transparency and participation for the HIV-positive New Yorkers and activists also fighting for greater attention on NYC healthcare.

The Health Fair gave New Yorkers access to healthcare professionals as well as activist reading material. For instance, ACT UP NY had zines about STI testing, the MPOX virus, HIV, and other topics.

The LGBTQ+ health organization Callen-Lorde gave away bags with a condom, lube, a toothbrush, deodorant, and information pamphlets.

“In terms of tabling, we are just here to promote services, let people know who we are, where we are,” TyShawn, an employee of Callen-Lorde, said to LGBTQ Nation. TyShawn did not give his full name for privacy reasons, but he discussed what some of these resources look like. One of the resources he talked to was finding representation in primary care providers.

“I do think representation matters,” TyShawn said.

TyShawn stressed that being a different gender, for example, can dramatically change the way a provider treats a patient. At Callen-Lorde, he said, this is something that he and his coworkers recognize as imperative to health and wellness.

The Tool Box's table
Lana Leonard The Toolbox Collective’s table

Right next door to the Callen-Lorde tent was The Toolbox Collective. Toolbox is all about representation, safety, and trans-inclusive education about kink and sex. It was founded by G Herrin and Artemis Truini, who say Toolbox is NYC’s first and only trans-owned, queer-centered sexual health and pleasure shop.

“It was sort of a harebrained idea where Artemis has worked in sex shops before, and I’ve been in industries that don’t really have space for me as a queer and trans person,” Herrin said to LGBTQ Nation.

Herrin was used to seeing trans and gender-diverse products relegated to the “dusty corners” of queer stores. In the face of growing animosity, the two decided to take action. In recent years, the federal government has ensured a pathway to strip autonomy from health care decisions.

With a particular target trans healthcare, and reproductive care, including abortion. Just two years ago, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, saying abortion isn’t protected under the U.S. Constitution. Additionally, half the states have banned healthcare for trans youth, according to the Movement Advancement Project (MAP).

“We have talked about immediately accessible gender affirming-wear, like compression gear, and breast forms are kind of universal no matter your age,” Herrin added. “At any age, you may want to start binding when it feels right for you, and when you’ve decided that’s what you want for your body.”

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Originally published here.

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