The Sexy Health staff, top, and their brightly-colored truck, below. (Photos courtesy of Resource Center)
A new mobile unit makes HIV testing and treatment more accessible
DAVID TAFFET | Senior Staff Writer
“We’re taking everything we do at Nelson-Tebedo and taking it on the road,” Resource Center empowerment Director Jalenzski Brown declared. Brown was talking about a new mobile unit delivered in May and Resource Center’s plans to make its services more accessible.
Although the truck was delivered a couple of months ago, staffing it during the pandemic has been challenging.
But Brown believes he’ll have the mobile unit staffed and ready to roll by September. That’s good news, especially since a number of Pride events take place from mid-September through the beginning of October.
Resource Center has 38 years of experience providing sexual health resources to the community. Among the services offered are HIV and STI testing, STD treatment, PrEP, condoms and lube and education. All will be available onboard the Sexy Health truck. For those who test positive, linkage to treatment will be offered including dental care at Resource Center’s dental clinic and medical care at its health clinic.
Brown said serving the LGBTQ community is Resource Center’s mission, but sexual health for the larger community is also among its goals. While a schedule will appear on the organization’s new SexyHealth.org website, appearances are not yet lined up.
Not only would Brown like to be a presence at large Pride events, he’d like to have some regular stops in neighborhoods with higher rates of HIV. He’s working to connect with a supermarket where the Sexy Health truck might park once every other week. He also wants to set up stops in rural areas that have no local sexual health care.
“SexyHealth is love on wheels,” said Resource Center CEO Cece Cox. “LGBTQ individuals, particularly those who are Black and LatinX, face discrimination and stigma in seeking culturally competent health care. Also, many in Dallas do not have access to transportation. This state-of-the-art SexyHealth mobile van brings compassionate and skilled care into underserved communities, with the goal of improving health.”
Brown said by taking its services on the road, the Center is addressing accessibility and transportation issues, but also the problem of HIV stigma. Some people won’t come to a clinic setting, even if that clinic is on the same street as bars, restaurants and stores.
He noted that Resource Center dropped the word clinic from the name of its Cedar Springs Road testing site, which is now known simply as Nelson-Tebedo. And they’re working to give it a less clinical atmosphere.
Then there’s Sexy Health. The name alone makes you smile. But the truck’s paint job in bright blue, yellow, purple and green — will make those smiles even wider.
“The design of the truck is intentional,” Brown said. “The truck as a piece of art — I hope people will want to take a picture with it.”
Anyone who would like to book the truck to be part of an event should contact SexyHealth. The event doesn’t have to be large.
“We have a four-to-six client per hour capacity,” Brown said. “So it doesn’t have to be the largest event.”
As the number of new HIV cases continue to rise, it’s important that Resource Center help get people who are infected with the virus into treatment and, at the same time, contain other sexually transmitted diseases.
“Forty years into the HIV pandemic, Dallas is one of the hardest-hit metropolitan areas in the United States for new infections,” Cox said. “Testing is treatment. When someone knows their HIV status, they must seek medical care to live a long, healthy life. One of the Center’s core missions has always been to help prevent HIV infections and assist individuals living with HIV. SexyHealth continues that commitment.”
Brown said part of the work of Sexy Health is to keep those who test negative to continue to test negative and those who test positive to remain healthy.