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Howard Brown Health’s mission is simple: “to eliminate the disparities in healthcare experienced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people through research, education, and the provision of services that promote health and wellness.” Since 1974, this organization has been protecting Chicago’s LGBTQ+ community by providing medical services free of discrimination. Learn more about our collaboration with Howard Brown Health and the crucial role they played in the war against the AIDS crisis.

The AIDS Crisis

The 70s and 80s were difficult times for the gay community. Decades before the AIDS crisis occurred, HIV spread from Africa to Haiti where it was contracted by professionals and tourists visiting the Caribbean. Researchers say HIV arrived in the U.S. as early as 1971 and swept its way from New York to San Francisco. Pretty soon, the nation was dealing with an AIDS outbreak which threatened thousands of lives, particularly in the gay community.

In 1974, four medical students who were part of the Chicago Gay Medical Students Association banded together to help their community. Very little was known about HIV at the time, but the students were determined to prevent the spread of STIs among gay men. Because they needed a safe space to treat patients free of discrimination, they began meeting voluntarily in a room above an old grocery store. This first informal clinic was located in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago and became an important pillar of the community.

Founding Howard Brown Health

Two years later, the first board was formed and the clinic was officially named after Dr. Howard Brown, cofounder of the National LBGTQ Task Force. Dr. Brown was an Illinois native and also a former New York City Public Health Commissioner who transformed the image of gay men and lesbian women in the public eye by coming out in 1973.

Because of the clinic’s key participation in the study and treatment of hepatitis B, Howard Brown Health was finally able to hire its first paid staff. Their hard work resulted in the development of a vaccine for hepatitis B, which was a major scientific breakthrough. Due to the wide recognition the organization received, Howard Brown Health was able to grow and fight on the frontlines during the AIDS crisis in the 1980s.

In 1985, Howard Brown Health helped develop the City of Chicago’s AIDS Hotline, which was run by volunteers twenty-four hours a day. By the late 80s, the organization opened its first Brown Elephant Resale Shop, with proceeds going directly to help provide healthcare for patients. Now with three stores open throughout Chicago, Brown Elephant Resale Shop continues to help fund services for Howard Brown’s underinsured and uninsured patients.

Howard Brown Health Today

“Our mission at Howard Brow is to ensure that every LGBTQ person in metro Chicago has access to a healthcare provider that is accepting and knowledgable about the healthcare needs that our patients face.”

David Munar President and CEO of Howard Brown Health

Today, Howard Brown Health is one the nation’s largest LGBTQ+ organizations with over ten locations throughout the Chicagoland area. With an annual budget of over $145 million, this organization serves more than 35,000 members in the community. They continue to pride themselves on providing medical services to every patient regardless of ability to pay and have onsite specialists who can walk patients through insurance processes. While Howard Brown Health does focus primarily on healthcare, they also provide social services to LGBTQ+ youth through the Broadway Youth Center. This includes counseling, drop-in support for basic needs, meals, and employment support for young people ages 12 through 24.

Clinics are also staying open during the pandemic with safety regulations in place. This includes screening every individual before entering the building plus reduced staff and office hours. With the discrimination many members in the LGBTQ+ community face in the healthcare industry, Howard Brown Health is determined to continue providing help during this difficult time.

In honor of Pride Month, we have partnered with Howard Brown Health to bring you this special “Love Is Love” tee. A portion of the proceeds will benefit Howard Brown Health for community services. Many of the most creative entrepreneurs are members of the LGBTQ+ community. No matter what end of the spectrum you fall under, discoverGREY is proud to support every color in between. Show your support by picking up your shirt today.

GREY x Howard Brown Health

This article originally published on GREY Journal.