The expanded facility will offer a full range of healthcare services, including some gender-sensitive care.
The Utah AIDS Foundation rebrands and expands into a full-service, LGBTQ-focused primary care clinic to better serve the needs of queer patients.
The new UAF Legacy Health clinic will open in September and become the state’s first LGBTQ+ health center, said CEO Ahmer Afroz. Doctors will provide traditional care like any clinic and will also offer gender-affirming hormone therapy to patients with gender dysphoria, as well as pre-exposure prophylaxis known as PrEP, which may reduce the risk of contracting HIV.
Previously, the clinic only made available to the foundation It performed testing for HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted infections, and referred patients to outside doctors for other services. Once the new clinic opens, it will continue its HIV/AIDS and STI testing and offer other health services in-house alongside its support groups and mental health services.
Afroz said the foundation was established 40 years ago to fill a gap when many other healthcare providers refused to care for patients living with HIV/AIDS. Now, he said, the clinic is closing another gap.
“We see the need [for LGBTQ-competent care] “We see health inequalities and negative health impacts getting bigger,” he said. “And so we knew we had to pivot and shift to fill in the gaps.”
Afroz said bad experiences with doctors can deter people from seeking the treatment they need, and even when a doctor says they’re competent in LGBTQ care, that’s not always the case.
He’s heard of providers who don’t understand how to use pronouns or who view gender-affirming care as specialty care rather than primary care. He said some providers are also unaware of PrEP, refuse to offer it, or urge patients to get a prescription for post-exposure prophylaxis within the 72-hour timeframe when it’s considered effective.
“We see vendors say they’re competent, and then people come into their offices and they don’t even know what the LGBTQ+ acronym means,” he said. “It’s almost like a healthcare buzzword.”
Afroz said the foundation has been planning to expand health services for more than three years, following the lead of AIDS relief organizations in other states. Salt Lake County Council committed $2 million for the expansion.
Afroz said the clinic is undertaking “major renovations” to achieve that goal. It will include ten exam rooms and five mental health therapy offices, and will employ three full-time providers.
He added that the clinic strives to work with as many insurers as possible and offer services to people without insurance.
“It’s a difficult balance, isn’t it? We definitely need to have a certain number of policyholders to be able to have a sustainable model,” Afroz said. Noting that the clinic will provide services “on par with major hospital systems,” he hoped LGBTQ people seeking care at these facilities could transfer to the foundation’s clinic once they open.
The Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law recently found that Salt Lake City’s LGBTQ population is 125% more likely to be unemployed, 64% more likely to be uninsured, more likely to be are 120% more likely to be food insecure and 63% more likely to earn less than $24,000 per year compared to the non-LGBTQ population.
The clinic will begin treating PrEP patients in June and will officially open in September. Patients will be able to make appointments starting in August, Afroz said. It will be located at the Utah AIDS Foundation’s current location: 150 S. 1000 East, Suite #200, in Salt Lake City.