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It’s Texas Health Action’s fifth anniversary! As our CEO Christopher Hamilton wrote in a recent blog, “Five years ago, a small team of passionate community members and medical providers combined forces to open Austin’s first stand-alone PrEP clinic.” Our organization has made incredible strides since that time in fulfilling our mission to provide sexual wellness and health services to Texans who need it most.

We asked staff who have been with us since the beginning (and almost the beginning) to share their thoughts and memories about their time here. Read on to learn just some of the ways Texas Health Action and Kind Clinic have impacted the community, and our staff as individuals, over the last five years.

 

 

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Staff Q&A: Celebrating 5 Years of Kindness!

 

Arthur Landin,
Clinical Operations Coordinator

1. How has Texas Health Action affected the community over the last 5 years?

I believe that THA has made a permanent and lasting effect in the central Texas area by shining a light and tackling the importance of sexual health. THA has opened the door in creating spaces and programs that focus on the individual. As the organization has evolved, we have created a safer and more compassionate way of supporting the LGBTQIA+ community in not only the area of healthcare, but also with financial assistance, mental health care, telemedicine and legal assistance. THA has also opened the door to educating the community as well as supporting medical and psychiatric residency programs to expand the access to inclusive, compassionate providers.

 

2. What to you has been the most important advancement or achievement THA has made in the last 5 years?

This is a hard question to answer as there are so many! I would have to start with the idea of creating Austin’s access to PrEP. This one seed advanced the efforts of eliminating HIV in the central Texas area, focusing on populations that have had barriers and/or limited access to quality healthcare. This includes our transgender community who have previously experienced either no healthcare or bad healthcare due to stigma. We’ve removed that.

 

3. What is your first memory of THA?

My first memory of THA began with a simple email request from former board chair, Mark Erwin, in July 2015. He informed me about this medication that had been approved for preventing HIV infection, and that he and Dr. Cynthia Brinson had just started a mini clinic in a borrowed space to provide access to this medication. While they had volunteer clinicians and administrative volunteers, Mark was asking if I would be interested in assisting on the clinical side of the process. Intrigued, I met with Dr. Brinson and discussed her vision and need. I quickly planted myself in the middle of this process and began volunteering as a medical assistant to better observe the patient experience and create ways to better serve the community.

 

 

Evan Mahony,
Patient Advocate Supervisor

1. How has Texas Health Action affected the community over the last 5 years?

As a program of Texas Health Action, Kind Clinic has become the gold standard for LGBTQ-affirming care in Central Texas. Our services are so well-known and well-loved because they are so essential to the community.

 

2. What to you has been the most important advancement or achievement THA has made in the last 5 years?

To me, the most important advancement that THA has made in the past 5 years has been the addition of gender-affirming care in 2017. As transgender people gain new prominence in our fight for rights and dignity, the backlash against our existence has intensified, with attacks on transgender people’s legal rights as well as increasing violence against trans people, particularly Black trans women. The overall wellbeing of the trans community in Central Texas has been strengthened by access to a trans-affirming clinic that offers hormone therapy and other gender-affirming care at no or low cost. This is literally life-saving care that many trans people in Texas have struggled to afford.

 

3. What is your first memory of THA?

I first heard about THA when I read an article in spring 2017 announcing that Kind Clinic would begin offering gender-affirming care in addition to PrEP and PEP. Coincidentally, around the same time, an acquaintance posted on social media that Kind Clinic was looking for volunteers. I immediately signed up for volunteer orientation with great excitement, and my experiences as a volunteer led to me taking a full-time role as Patient Advocate in 2018 and moving to the role of Patient Advocate Supervisor in 2020. THA has grown rapidly since that first volunteer shift that I worked in spring 2017, and I’ve been proud and happy to be part of that growth.

 

 

April Boyd,
Director of Telemedicine

1. How has Texas Health Action affected the community over the last 5 years?

Texas Health Action has affected the community over the last 5 years by being a pillar for sexual wellness healthcare, in that it provides safe, supportive, and affirming care. Particularly, speaking from the lens of telemedicine and looking at our record of the suppressed HIV to undetectable levels in 94% of our ongoing HIV+ patients, I have every confidence that our newly virtual care service line will overwhelmingly increase these already remarkable outcomes. I am encouraged that our standalone statewide telemedicine program has a tremendous opportunity to further eliminate the transmission of HIV, as we focus on making care equitable by partnering with vulnerable communities that have limited to no access of sexual wellness healthcare. This indeed makes our mission possible and THA essential!

 

2. What to you has been the most important advancement or achievement THA has made in the last 5 years?

The most important achievement Texas Health Action has made in the last 5 years is training more than 28 future physicians through residency programs. In an era where medical school enrollment is critically low and a severe physician shortage throughout the country, it speaks greatly to the leadership, program, and brand of THA to attract so many future healthcare providers.

 

3. What is your first memory of THA?

My first memory of THA was flying into Austin for the first time to look for somewhere to live, after accepting my position. I had only two days to make it happen (yes, I relocated in a pandemic and THA has been worth every mile). The leasing agent in one of the Southpark communities I toured was outstanding. As we made small talk on our walk to look at an apartment, he asked, “Where will you be working?” I excitedly turned to him and said, “Texas Health Action.” He immediately looked at me and said, “My husband and I are patients there – the staff is fantastic, and the care is great!” He goes on to say, “You’re going to love working there. I’m a student at UT and hope to get a job there once I finish.” Wow! Talk about confirmation that I made the right decision.

 

 

Bart Whittington, LMSW
Care Navigation Programs Manager

1. How has Texas Health Action affected the community over the last 5 years?

Texas Health Action opened the first freestanding PrEP clinic in the nation and quickly became the fastest-growing PrEP clinic in the United States. I don’t know where we stand on that figure presently, but THA has helped thousands of patients prevent HIV. 

 

2. What to you has been the most important advancement or achievement THA has made in the last 5 years?

I believe the most important advancement Texas Health Action (THA) has made in the past five years is opening its service to the Trans/non-binary community by providing gender affirming care to a marginalized community. Another important advancement THA has made is in serving the population of people living with HIV/AIDS. The HIV epidemic cannot be eradicated without preventing HIV through PrEP and other means as well as helping people living with HIV (PLWH) achieve viral suppression through what is known as Treatment as Prevention (TaSP) to support Undetectable = Untransmissible. An HIV positive person on meds with a durably suppressed viral load cannot transmit the virus to others. This is a game changer for those living with HIV and a great stride forward in ending the HIV epidemic.

 

3. What is your first memory of THA?

My first memory of THA as when the original founder, Ben Walker, Marcus Sanchez and I signed the original document to form a nonprofit dedicated to bringing access to PrEP to the Austin Community. It wasn’t known as THA at the time, but that seminal act started the process for what now had become THA/Kind Clinic which is, in my opinion, the premier sexual health organization in Texas and hopefully soon in the entire United States. In all my years of work, and they have been many, I’ve never seen an organization with such rich, diverse talent and I’m proud to be a part of the wonderful organization.

 

 

Mikayla Avery
Patient Advocate

1. How has Texas Health Action affected the community over the last 5 years?

Texas Health Action has a big role in providing multiple services for the LGBTQIA+ communities. We’ve found a hole in care and have stepped up in a big way. We have gone from only a few patients in a shared space to now a couple thousand every month with four locations. Every year, Texas Health Action has grown bigger due to the sheer amount of demand and loyalty that our patients show us. We are at the forefront of care for so many people with a personal touch that keeps patients not only happy but also giving them care that is above and beyond.

 

Trans flag with cross

2. What to you has been the most important advancement or achievement THA has made in the last 5 years?

To me, the most important advancement has been gender care. There are no other providers that have the range of services that we offer for Trans and Non-binary patients for only the cost of their hormones. We went from a waitlist of over 6 months seeing gender care patients one day a week to a waitlist that is now a month or two while seeing gender care patients every day. We’ve become the premier place for trans and non-binary patients where they come from all over the state of Texas for care.

 

3. What is your first memory of THA?

My first memory of THA is actually when I was a patient. I was one of the very first gender care patients that we ever saw. I remember being in the waiting room and correcting the paper forms before my visit. It was also the best care that I had ever received. After my visit, I was asked if I would like to apply for a patient advocate role and I gave it a shot. Now I’ve been with THA for almost 4 years. So my first memory is also a continuation as each new day is another day that I spend with the THA family.

 

 

Steven Tamayo
Outreach & Testing Manager

1. How has Texas Health Action affected the community over the last 5 years?

Our community has access to so many amazing programs and services than ever before due to the expansion of THA over the last five years. So many of my friends have been able to take charge of their sexual health and get tested so they know what next steps to take. I have friends who are now undetectable or who have finally been able to begin HRT with the help of Kind Clinic. And that’s not all: Vaccines, mental health, treatment, there are just so many success stories that are a product of the work we do!

 

2. What to you has been the most important advancement or achievement THA has made in the last 5 years?

For me, the process of moving from a PrEP access only clinic to now offering a wide array of sexual health services was a huge achievement for THA. So many community members are now able to take care of all of their sexual health needs in one place!

 

3. What is your first memory of THA?

I remember my first shift volunteering with the Austin PrEP Access Project in 2015 when I worked at AIDS Services of Austin. I was so excited I asked my boss at the time if I could leave work early, so I could go volunteer in the lab. — Additionally, I also remember when I first became a patient in July of the same year! I was running late, as per usual, and was afraid I would miss my appointment, but they squeezed me in and took care of me! ❤

 

 

 
Come back soon to hear what other staff members have to say about our 5 Years of Kindness!

 

 

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