Mobile clinic improving access to sexual health services

CINCINNATI — A new mobile health clinic aims to provide better access to a number of sexual health services for members of the LGBTQ community and other residents of southwestern Ohio.

What do you want to know

  • Columbus-Based Equitas Health to Operate Full-Time Mobile Sexual Health Clinic in Southwest Ohio
  • The clinic will offer testing and treatment for STIs and will also provide vaccines
  • Equitas Santé launched mobile clinics in 2021 as a way to provide better access to health services
  • The city of Cincinnati paid $100,000 for the purchase of the vehicle

The Mobile Outreach Vehicle (MOVe) is operated by a team from Equitas Health, one of the largest health care organizations serving LGBTQ and HIV/AIDS in the country.

The Cincinnati MOVe unit will operate as a “mobile sexual health clinic,” according to Dwayne Steward of Equitas. Patients can get tested and receive treatment for HIV, gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis and hepatitis C. The van will also offer vaccines, including those for COVID-19 and monkeypox.

Patients who access the van can also get help navigating the healthcare system, enrolling in medical insurance and connecting with other providers.

The full-service mobile health clinic will offer a range of tastings, treatments and vaccinations. (Photo courtesy of City of Cincinnati)

Equitas Santé offers mobile clinic services free of charge.

“This new mobile unit will be an important tool in helping to end the HIV epidemic right here in Cincinnati,” Steward said. “Unfortunately, the groups most affected by poor health and well-being outcomes are less likely to access physical health care facilities. This new MOVe unit allows us to go where care is needed most.

A Columbus-based nonprofit, Equitas Health has 19 offices in 13 cities, serving tens of thousands of patients in Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia each year. It also operates pharmacies serving patients in Ohio and Texas.

Equitas Health has a community health center on Gilbert Avenue in Walnut Hills. But with the new mobile clinic, the organization is looking to expand its reach in southwestern Ohio and provide better access to its services.

This is especially important to meet the needs of people with low incomes, who are older or who may not have access to reliable transportation, according to Robert Copeland, acting CEO of Equitas Health.

“Comprehensive, affirmative health care shouldn’t depend on your zip code,” Copeland said. “We know the disparities that exist in the communities we serve. So if they can’t come to us, we’ll come to them.

Michael Chanak, a longtime LBGTQ+ rights advocate, believes the mobile van is a big win for the region. Although there have been advances in treatments in recent years, access to health care and educational resources remains more important than ever, he said.

“It is a mistake to ignore that HIV is a pandemic. People are always positive and that is concerning, especially for young people and underserved communities,” Chanak added. “This van improves access to testing and counselling. It’s so easy.”

Equitas Santé mobile unit teams work closely with local health clinics in a multi-pronged approach to patient care.

If a patient on the mobile unit tests positive for a sexually transmitted infection (STI), they will be referred to a long-term care option at the health clinic or another provider.

The services offered in the mobile clinic are free for patients.  (Photo courtesy of City of Cincinnati)

The services offered in the mobile clinic are free for patients. (Photo courtesy of City of Cincinnati)

“It’s really about getting out there and helping people know their status and then connecting them to the care they need,” said Anthony Clemente, spokesperson for Equitas Health.

Clemente reiterated that while the services are aimed at the LGBTQ+ community, anyone can access them.

In recent months, the State of Ohio has experienced a increasing number of monkeypox casesa disease that has largely affected men who have sex with men.

“While monkeypox is not the reason we started the mobile outreach program, it does show why we need to,” Clemente said.

Equitas Health launched its mobile health fleet in early 2021 amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The organization has maintained a regular schedule of events it plans to visit statewide, including PRIDE parades and festivals.

The success of the program prompted expansion. The Cincinnati van is the first to provide service exclusively to a specific part of Ohio.

There are currently four MOVe vehicles, but Equitas Health is already planning to add more.

Mayor Aftab Pureval said the mobile unit has the potential to have a profound impact on the health and well-being of the region’s most vulnerable residents.

The City of Cincinnati was so committed to the project that it committed $100,000 towards the purchase of the vehicle.

“As a city committed to helping every resident live a happy, healthy and fulfilling life, we must do what we can to get out into the community and meet people where their needs are,” Pureval said.

A map and a calendar of sites where all its MOVe vehicles will go are available on the Equitas Health website.

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