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A HIV diagnosis can still have a great impact on mental health
Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC) is putting the final touches to its new mental health clinic in New York City. The Carl Jacobs Mental Health Clinic will be launched with a ribbon cutting ceremony on Tuesday.
It’s located at GMHC’s Midtown West Headquarters at 446 West 33rd Street. GMHC.
GMHC was the world’s first health service launched in response to the AIDS crisis in the early 1980s. It continues to provide services to approximately 12,000 people living with and affected by HIV and AIDS.
Part of this work includes mental health services and helping people deal with societal stigma around HIV.
‘Access to affordable quality mental health services is a crucial component of health care, especially comprehensive HIV care,’ said GMHC CEO Kelsey Louie in a statement.
He said the new clinic. ‘will help address the emotional and psychological needs often experienced by people living with or at risk of contracting HIV/AIDS. This clinic will help all clients served lead healthier lives.’
The clinic will offer services to adult New Yorkers of all sexual orientations, gender identities, and income levels, regardless of HIV status.
In a statement, GMHC says the clinic ‘will include 24/7 emergency support and triage to enrolled clients, and provide an entry point for linkage to GMHC’s broader programs and services, including testing, prevention, nutrition, legal representation, supportive housing, and job-readiness.
‘The clinic will serve clients covered by Medicaid, Medicare, and private insurance and will be available to the uninsured on a sliding fee scale. Services will be available in English and Spanish.’
‘It’s still stigmatized horribly in our country’
Thanks to tremendous advances in HIV care, people diagnosed with the virus who have access to medication can expect to live a long and illness-free life. However, many diagnosed report mental health issues and depression.
A recent study in the UK found that men newly diagnosed with HIV (within the previous 12 months) are five times as likely as the general population to commit suicide.
David Baker-Hargrove is a psychotherapist at Two Spirit Health Services in Orlando, Florida. He has provided counseling to many gay men with HIV. He agrees that the associated mental health problems can now be more problematic than the physical reality of life on medication.
‘It’s still stigmatized horribly in our country. HIV is a sociological death sentence.
He says that although the gay community has been dealing with HIV for almost 40 years, many people remain ignorant about it. This lack of education impacts on how they respond to others with HIV, and how they react if diagnosed.
‘Thirty years ago, when a young man was diagnosed with HIV, he’d think “when am I going to die?”. Now when a young man is diagnosed, he thinks, “No-one’s going to date me”.
‘Now, more than ever, HIV is a significant mental health issue. We’ve got the medication side covered, but the stigma is still so high, and that’s what the young guys are worried about. And that’s reinforced on the dating apps. People are vicious to each other.’