Gay Pride Week: Landmark AIDS Outreach Program Makes A Serious Move
As Gay Men's Health Crisis, one of the nation's leading AIDS outreach organizations, moves out of its Chelsea home, some long-time supporters and activists are questioning the move and the direction of the organization. NY1's Health reporter Kafi Drexel filed the following report.
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With its lease set to expire, the organization Gay Men's Health Crisis is planning to relocate from its West 24th Street location in Chelsea to 33rd Street and 10th Avenue.
"I think that if they are offering the same services, and if it is conveniently located to transportation, it shouldn't be a problem," says GMHC client Nathan Perry.
But in finding a new building, Marjorie Hill, the executive director of GMHC, had to make some concessions.
"Many of the buildings we went to, about 20 to 25, basically said they didn't want a kitchen, that they didn't want medical, that they really didn't want a social service entity in their office at all," says Hill.
Even though GMHC will have more space, it will no longer have an industrial-strength kitchen to support a hot meals program. Instead, it will rely on a warming kitchen. HIV testing programs will be done offsite and a clinic and research lab run by NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center also will not make the move.
While Hill says GMHC is working with Cornell to find a separate site, she says only about 200 of their more than 10,000 clients use Cornell's clinical trials and medical services.
Cornell doctors say they actually see more than 1,000 patients a year here. While they plan on keeping the program going, there is a big concern that housing it in a separate facility will have a hugely negative impact on care.
"We are talking about a part of Manhattan that has the highest incidence rate of HIV indeed anywhere in the country. So we are going to have St. Vincent's [Hospital] closed and now our clinic, which serves 1,300 people, [is] looking for a new home," says Dr. Jonathan Jacobs of NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell.
Hill boasts that GMHC will have better services, including an expanded food pantry program and pharmacy and more youth programming.
Yet critics of the move still are not happy. HIV/AIDS activist Larry Kramer, who co-founded GMHC, believes what is happening is more than just a move, but a move away from the organization's original mission.
"The place is a mess. This is the place where -- this was the model gay, the model AIDS organization. They were cutting-edge," says Kramer.
Hill argues that is an assessment that could not be further from the truth.
"The people most at risk today are African-American gay men, African-American women and other people of color, Latinos. So are we the same exact organization we were 30 years ago? No we are not," says Hill. "I'd rather go with the numbers than go with nostalgia."