When Gay City was formed in 1995, 90 percent of HIV cases in King County occurred among gay men, but only 25 percent of public HIV funding was allocated to their treatment. And what health services were available left the men feeling marginalized, judged.
With a second wellness clinic open this year, a decade after the successful launch of its first clinic, Gay City is finally able to expand its public health services to women and straight men, a longtime goal hamstrung by the conditions of public funding. According to executive director Fred Swanson, the 23 percent reduction in new HIV infections in King County since 2004 illustrates the impact of services like those provided by Gay City. “People can come in, get tested. It’s peer based. It’s talking to someone like you.”
With HIV no longer a death sentence, Gay City wants to focus on life. This includes a broadened scope of social services ranging from tobacco awareness programs to housing assistance, as well as promotion of LGBTQ art, with 10 shows a year featuring dance, theater, a lesbian comedy night, and even shadow puppets.
The early days were about community building, and Swanson wants that legacy to continue. As Seattle grows and neighborhoods change, Gay City is a place to come and feel connected “even when we all start to move further away from each other.”