A Vancouver gay men’s health organization will be expanding its presence to East Vancouver starting Aug 15.
The Health Initiative for Men (HIM) is teaming up with Stop HIV/AIDS to open HIM on the Drive, a sexual health centre for gay men that will provide rapid HIV, early HIV, standard HIV and other STI tests.
“The major difference between the East Vancouver location and the Davie St location is that we don’t have room at the East Vancouver location for counselling or peer support,” says HIM executive director Wayne Robert. “That’s not out there yet, but we are hoping to expand into that. Our clients can talk to nurses and get a referral to the services at Davie.”
Many HIM clients live and work in East Vancouver, Robert notes. “There is a lot more activity going on for guys on the Eastside, and we’ve been able to determine there’s a real population of guys [with] a presence out there, so we want to make it convenient for them.”
Robert hopes the new office will offer people more options and reduce barriers to testing.
“In one study, 30 percent of guys said they didn’t test because it wasn’t convenient,” he says. “We know the more we can make those opportunities available, the more often people will test, and we’re also kind of wanting to emphasize to people they can test more frequently than they may have thought.”
HIM on the Drive may be of interest to men who would prefer not to get tested in their own neighbourhood, Robert adds. “They might not want to go into the Davie clinic; they might see neighbours or a friend,” he says. “They could take a trip to the Drive.”
Robert points out that the new office, located about 10 blocks from the Commercial-Broadway Skytrain station, could make HIM’s services more accessible to men in other areas of the Lower Mainland who may find it inconvenient to commute to the West End. But he adds that it’s a little early to talk about plans of HIM expanding to other areas of the Lower Mainland.
“I’m thinking about ways of partnering with other health authorities interested in this model, where we did this ourselves or helped them to be able to get a program going like that.”