The Mazzoni Center
In 2013, the LGBT Equality Bill passed. This made Philadelphia one of the most LGBT friendly cities in the nation. Throughout that year, the Mazzoni Center performed 7,400 HIV tests. They also launched the Trans Wellness Project. Currently, in 2015, they see more than 2,000 trans patients every year. As said by their director, Nurit Shein, it is “proof that there is still a huge need out there. And we are meeting part of it.” They now maintain three offices: their main office, the Mazzoni Center Family and Community Medicine, and the Washington West Project. Their main office is located at 21 S 12th Street.
The Mazzoni Center began as a subcommittee of the Gay Community Center of Philadelphia, or the GCCP. It started as a group of volunteers in 1979. They named themselves Lavender Health. Their services focused on the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s. They provided patients with free STI testing, a hotline for LGBT people, as well as education and training on LGBT issues. They changed their name to the Mazzoni Center in 2003. Now in 2015, their services include free HIV/AIDS and STI testing, a food bank and housing subsidies for families and individuals affected by HIV, support groups, outreach and education programs, LGBT legal services, along with primary, mental, and behavioral healthcare.
In 1981, Lavender Health incorporated themselves as the Philadelphia Community Health Alternative, or PCHA. Throughout the 1980s, PCHA focused on helping those affected by HIV/AIDS. At the time, there were only 7 reported cases of AIDS in Philadelphia and 700 nationwide. However, by 1991, there were 1 million reported cases of AIDS nationwide. In the beginning of the AIDS crisis, PCHA established the first HIV testing site in Pennsylvania. They also launched a housing subsidy program for those affected by HIV and opened the first ever food bank for people with HIV/AIDS.
In 1984, PCHA moved to its first home at 1129 Spruce Street. After this move, demand increased and their services expanded. Once the peak of the AIDS crisis passed, they began to include other forms of LGBT healthcare. While still providing their other services, they added mental health counseling, LGBT legal services, and primary practice.
In 1995, Nurit Shein became executive director. Only nine full time staff worked at PCHA at this time. A year later, the Washington West Project opened as an “after hours” storefront in the gayborhood at 809 Locust Street. PCHA then moved to 1201 Chestnut Street. They now had eight offsite testing locations for HIV. They soon began an open door counseling program for LGBT youth. 2002 marked the first Philadelphia Trans Health Conference. Fifty people attended this event. By 2011, this conference became the largest event of its kind anywhere in the world with 2,000 attendees.
PCHA began using the HIV rapid test in 2003. This test gave results in an hour as opposed to a week. This resulted in more people getting tested. That same year, they changed their name to the Mazzoni Center. This name came from longtime volunteer and board member, Dr. Peter Mazzoni.
In 2012, the Mazzoni Center partnered with the White House Office of Public Engagement (OPE) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HSS) in presenting the first white house LGBT conference on health. More than 300 healthcare professionals, community organizers, medical students, and community members traveled to Philadelphia from at least 22 states for this conference.
At that point in time, the food bank, called Vivian’s cupboard, was serving 1,501 individuals and 1,311 households. Low-income Philadelphians with HIV received over 10,000 bags of groceries. One hundred full time employees worked at three different locations in Center City Philadelphia.