Transwomen’s Healthcare In-Focus: Interview with Brian King of Health & Education Services/PRISM LGBT Community Health (part 1)

We’re starting a series of conversations here this week at Beck’s Cafe with Brian King of Health and Education Services (HES) of Beverly, MA.  HES is the sponsor organization for the North East Transwomens Alliance (NETA) and for PRISM Health, a network of programs within Health & Education Services, Inc. committed to providing competent services for the LGBT community on the North Shore and Merrimack Valley.  Brian is the Director of HIV Prevention & Education at HES’s and the Executive Sponsor for the Gay & Bi Men’s Health Program, PRISM Health and NETA

If you were at First Event 2010 chances are you were accosted by some of the members of NETA/HES in their zeal to survey as many attendees as possible.  NETA and HES have a single mission with their organization: “dedicated to the health and well-being of transgender women living in New England.” Sounds like a pretty good mission to us here at Beck’s Café.  In fact HES has been in the business of helping people stay healthy for some time now and “provides a wide range of community based mental health and substance abuse, prevention and addiction services to Massachusetts’ Greater North Shore and Lower Merrimack Valley residents.”

Beck’s Café: Brian, thanks for taking the time to meet with us.  Let’s start with an easy question, what’s the traditional mission for HES?

HES: Well it’s great to finally have a chance to chat Becki!  HES tries to provide comprehensive services for people that are underserved such as: the homeless, those who are traumatized, people facing social stigma that isolates them, those caught in substance abuse, HIV prevention services, STD prevention and treatment services.  Our feeling was that by having one location and all the services under one umbrella, it made it possible for the people we are targeting to more easily access the services they need and this creates a more seamless continuity of support.

Beck’s Café: So it’s easier to receive medical help in one area then kind of drive across town to the next one.  It just makes life easier for people, is that the idea?

HES: Exactly. This helps to keep the door open for those needing services. It reduces the stress and barriers of health care for people by reducing barriers like travel or having to coordinate among multiple service providers.  Many people at risk face so much stress even a simple barrier like travel can derail them from getting important health care or other critical services.

For example, something like Hepatitis A or B is easily treatable and preventable, and yet, barriers stop people from either getting healthy or staying healthy.  Hepatitis A isn’t necessarily contracted from sex with a partner but instead from food such as eating poorly prepared sushi or contaminated food or drinking infected water; HES provides vaccines for Hepatitis A.  Not being treated for it can be a major health problem.  Hepatitis B can be contracted from anal, vaginal or oral sex and is the most common, serious liver infection in the world.  In fact, Hepatitis B is 100 times more contagious than HIV.  The good news is that it can be easily avoided  by way of safe vaccines which HES can provide. Also being vaccinated protects the liver and this is especially important if a trans-woman is going to start hormone replacement therapy (HRT).  A trans-woman’s liver has to be healthy for her to process the estrogen she’s taking.  IF you are on HRT hepatitis A & B vaccines could be very important!

(Tomorrow, we’ll be chatting with Brian about how HES got interested in transwomen’s health)

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