The Utah AIDS Foundation is rebranding and expanding into a full-service, LGBTQ-focused primary care clinic to help better meet the needs of queer patients.
The new “UAF Legacy Health” clinic will open in September and become the state’s first LGBTQ+ community health center, CEO Ahmer Afroz said. Its physicians will offer traditional care like any clinic would, and will also provide gender-affirming hormone therapy to patients with gender dysphoria, as well as offer pre-exposure prophylaxis, known as PrEP, which can reduce one’s chances of contracting HIV.
Previously, the foundation’s clinic only provided testing for HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted infections, and referred patients to outside clinicians for other services. Once the new clinic opens, it will continue its HIV/AIDS and STI testing and will provide other health care services in-house, alongside its support groups and mental health services.
Afroz said the foundation started 40 years ago to fill a gap when many other health care providers refused to care for patients with HIV/AIDS. Now, he said, the clinic is filling another gap.
“We’re seeing the need [for LGBTQ-competent care] get bigger, and we’re seeing these kind of disparities in health and negative health outcomes get even larger,” he said. “And so we knew we needed to pivot and shift to fill the gaps.”
Afroz said poor experiences with doctors can stop people from seeking the care they need, and even when a physician says they are competent in LGBTQ care, that isn’t always the case.
He has heard of providers who don’t understand how to use pronouns, or consider gender-affirming care as specialty care instead of primary care. He said some providers also don’t know about PrEP, or refuse to provide it, or make patients scramble to receive a post-exposure prophylaxis prescription within the 72-hour time frame that it is considered effective.
“We’re seeing providers say that they are competent, and then we’d have people get into their offices, and they don’t even know what the acronym LGBTQ+ means,” he said. “It’s almost like a health care buzzword.”
The foundation has been planning to expand health care services for more than three years, Afroz said, following what AIDS service organizations have done in other states. Salt Lake County Council allocated $2 million for the expansion.
Afroz said the clinic is undergoing “extensive renovations” to meet this goal and will include 10 exam rooms, five mental health therapy offices, and will employ three full-time providers.
He added that the clinic aims to be paneled with as many insurance providers as it can, and would offer services to people without insurance.
”It’s a difficult balance, right? We do definitely need to see a certain amount of insured individuals to be able to have a sustainable model,” Afroz said. He noted that the clinic will provide services “on par with major hospital systems” and hoped LGBTQ people seeking care at those facilities could shift to the foundation’s clinic once it opens.
The Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law recently found that Salt Lake City’s LGBTQ population are 125% more likely to be unemployed, 64% more likely to be uninsured, 120% more likely to experience food insecurity and 63% more likely to make less than $24,000 a year compared to the non-LGBTQ population.
The clinic will begin seeing patients for PrEP in June, and will officially open in September. Patients can begin making appointments in August, Afroz said. It will be located at the current Utah AIDS Foundation site: 150 S. 1000 East, suite #200, in Salt Lake City.