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NYC's LGBTQ+ community fights for healthcare amid budget cuts

Activists organise an annual Health Fair as significant healthcare cutbacks in New York City severely threaten services available to the LGBTQ+ community. With insufficient funding and support from the government, LGBTQ+ legacy activist groups are striving to enhance resources, awareness, education, and access to healthcare services. The Health Fair emerged from the “dire need for community health during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.”


Community health becomes paramount when highlighted during a reflective time of the year: Pride.


For these LGBTQ+ New Yorkers, Pride involves sharing knowledge and focusing beyond celebration to address the intergenerational health needs of the expansive LGBTQ+ community.



Image Credit: Canva


Kendall Martinez-Wright, who participated in the event, concurs. Martinez-Wright serves as the government relations and policy associate at Treatment Action Group (TAG).


“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 originated from the AIDS crisis, initially beginning as a working group in ACT UP NY. For three years, ACT UP NY and TAG have brought together health organisations like Callen-Lorde, Physicians for a National Health Program New York, NYU Langone Health, and others to share community resources and distribute COVID-19 and MPOX vaccines, sex education, personal protective equipment (PPE) such as medical masks, HIV services, and harm reduction tools like xylazine (known as tranq) and fentanyl drug testing strips.


Honoring their origins, ACT UP and TAG chose the Health Fair’s location intentionally. They organised it outside Judson Memorial Church on Thompson Street. The church was among the first places in the mid-1980s that allowed people with AIDS, their families, and activists to gather and honour those who passed away from AIDS.


In fact, TAG emerged from the AIDS activist organisation ACT UP NY. In January 1992, members of the Treatment and Data Committee of ACT UP left to create a nonprofit organisation focused on speeding up treatment research. Martinez-Wright joined TAG as a legislative strategist, but in her previous career in Missouri, she concentrated on public health and human rights advocacy.


“I was drawn to the advocacy area of raising awareness about the historical disenfranchisement of specific communities not only within the LGBTQ community as a whole, but also within other communities, such as persons of color, Black and brown individuals, women, and children regarding HIV, tuberculosis, and hepatitis,” Martinez-Wright continued.


The health expert aims to prioritise awareness of diseases and illnesses in our society to facilitate their eradication. That is why she collaborates with ACT UP NY.


New York City has been notably impacted by healthcare cuts, some of which have been partially reversed.


“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) to fund a pet project, a $225 million dollar Cop City in College Point, Queens,” ACT UP NY stated to LGBTQ Nation.


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


Organisers note that while the $5.3 million (approximately £4.1 million) in HIV/AIDS funding has been restored, distrust continues to grow towards the Adams administration. Consequently, ACT UP NY calls for greater transparency and involvement from HIV-positive New Yorkers and activists fighting for more focus on NYC healthcare.


The Health Fair provided New Yorkers with access to healthcare professionals and activist reading materials. For example, ACT UP NY distributed zines on STI testing, the MPOX virus, HIV, and other topics.


The LGBTQ+ health organisation Callen-Lorde handed out bags containing a condom, lube, a toothbrush, deodorant, and informational 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 provide his full name for privacy reasons but discussed what some of these resources entail. One of the resources he mentioned was finding representation in primary care providers.


“I do think representation matters,” TyShawn said.


TyShawn emphasised that being a different gender, for example, can significantly alter how a provider treats a patient. At Callen-Lorde, he explained, this is something he and his coworkers consider essential for health and wellness.


Adjacent to the Callen-Lorde tent was The Toolbox Collective. Toolbox focuses on representation, safety, and trans-inclusive education about kink and sex. It was founded by G Herrin and Artemis Truini, who describe Toolbox as NYC’s first and only trans-owned, queer-centred 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 told LGBTQ Nation.


Herrin often saw trans and gender-diverse products relegated to the “dusty corners” of queer stores. Confronted with increasing hostility, the duo decided to take action. Recently, the federal government has paved the way to strip autonomy from healthcare decisions, particularly targeting trans healthcare and reproductive care, including abortion. Two years ago, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, declaring that 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 that are universal regardless of 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.”












Read related myGwork articles here:

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New York Governor Signs Bills To Fight Hate Crimes

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Gay Couple Sues New York City Over Exclusion From IVF Workplace Benefits





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