Inside World Health Clinicians
It took me a decade to get where I am. I tell everyone that my work is a privilege; and that it is so because I love what I do and because I work with an organization that has set itself up with the resources necessary to accomplish its work.
World Health Clinicians (www.worldhealthclinicians.org), also known as WHC for short, is the Norwalk-based health organization that took me on to maintain, enhance and ultimately increase its media exposure around the globe. Locally, here in Connecticut, the organization has provided a safe space for people looking for personalized health care, as well as for people within the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities who are looking for specialized care. It does this through its CIRCLE CARE Center (CCC) health clinic and its CIRCLE CARE Center Pharmacy, both of which test, diagnose and treat patients who require even more specialized care as related to sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV/AIDS.
The organization has also recently celebrated the one-year anniversary of its new address at 618 West Avenue, where it also provides office space to Triangle Community Center (www.ctgay.org), the oldest community center for the local Fairfield County LGBT Community, as well as MFAP (www.mfap.com), which services individuals who require specialized counseling and assistance because of income difficulties, housing issues or HIV/AIDS and/or Hepatitis C (HCV) treatment and care.
WHC has provided grants and other resources to these two important community organizations. Most recently, TCC was able to develop a position for a Service Coordinator and Case Manager Jacki Alessio, who will enable the Center to directly serve the LGBTQ Community. She will be a vital link between clients and their needs for services provided by TCC, MFAP, WHC, CCC or any other local service organization. She will manage the intake, assessment, referral and follow-up of all client needs.
The local success of WHC has lent to its broad support from community leaders and activists, elected officials and other organizations that seek either its partnership or its guidance. Dr. Gary Blick, WHC’s co-founder and Chief Medical Officer, has established himself as a leader in HIV/AIDS treatment, care and a search for a cure because of his work over the course of the last 30 years. WHC Executive Director Scott Gretz has increased his involvement within the community over the last few years, and recently was honored at TCC’s Visionary Party for his commitment to the health and well-being of the Fairfield County and Norwalk communities.
Together, these two leaders have increased the efficacy of the care and needs of the local community. They have also helped to establish two important international initiatives that have impacted the lives of thousands of people around the world. HIV Equal (www.HIVequal.org) is a testing and anti-stigma social media campaign, as well as an online magazine, that was also co-created by celebrity photographer Thomas Evans, who heads the campaign’s photo aspect, to help dispel the myths around HIV. The campaign creates a simple and effective way of breaking down the worry and stigma surrounding HIV testing and the stigma surrounding people who are living with or who are affected by the virus. The campaign has held testing and photo events in cities across the U.S., including but not limited to Hartford, Provincetown, New York, Los Angeles and Washington, DC. It has also been a highly visible force on the continent of Africa, where it specializes in awareness for the communities surrounding Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. Recently, Dr. Blick and I had the opportunity in Melbourne, Australia to meet President Bill Clinton and introduce to him the concepts of this important work.
WHC has also developed an initiative called BEAT AIDS Project Zimbabwe (BAPZ) that has, for years, worked to save the lives of the next generation through its very own, unique testing and treatment outreach endeavors, more specifically through a recently recognized program called Preventing Mother-to-Child Transmission (PMTCT) of HIV. The acronym highly saturated discussions at the recent International AIDS Conference, held in Melbourne, and the need for it glistened in the eyes of the children left orphaned by HIV; those children whose hands I held in Victoria Falls as we walked along the fertile brown dirt surrounding the orphanage where many of them lived.
Zimbabwe is a country where 1.4 million of its citizens are infected and living with HIV. Through BAPZ, WHC is able to provide care and treatment to a small fraction of these individuals and their communities. In doing so, it is able to help stem the spread of the virus through education, resources and outreach. Its presence through a new clinic, which is scheduled to open in January, 2015, as well as a printed resource guide entitled BAPZ Magazine, will help to bring the necessary resources to Victoria Falls and its outlying communities while also creating a model of support that could be replicated across the country.
The work of World Health Clinicians is recognized within its own community here in Connecticut but also across the globe and by various influential leaders. It will continue to be a staple within the Norwalk and Fairfield County communities by supporting the work of local organizations such as TCC and MFAP, and it will continue its work in Zimbabwe while looking to expand its reach to other nations that require its assistance in achieving their goals to stem the spread of HIV and other infectious diseases. And I will continue to work under the privilege of such an organization that continuously enacts positive change in the lives of thousands of people.