ROGERS PARK — A new 15,000-square-foot Howard Brown Health Center in Rogers Park opened Monday as the next piece of the city's LGBT history, officials said during a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
David Ernesto Munar, Howard Brown's president and CEO, told guests at the event that the medical facility and community center was "truly a dream come true."
"Coming to Rogers Park is very significant to us," Munar said. "People will remember this site for generations to come."
Don Friedman, treasurer of Gerber/Hart Library's board, said he was proud to be "sharing LGBT history" with Howard Brown.
A year ago, the LGBT-focused organization — which has other locations in Uptown, Lakeview, Hyde Park and Englewood — opened up four exam rooms at the 6500 N. Clark St. location, which is shared with the Gerber/Hart Library and LGBT archives.
Now, the building boasts 10 exam rooms, full spectrum primary care, offices, a community room, Walgreens pharmacy, space for three dentists in the future and booths for hotline workers to take calls.
During Monday morning's event, Rogers Park native U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) toured the facility alongside Munar, with the congresswoman praising the clinic as "wonderful" and "respectful."
"The need is great, and you are here to serve in the most fabulous way," Schakowsky told the room of staff, health providers and community members. "Happy things and important things will happen here."
David Ernesto Munar gives U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky and Sen. Dick Durbin a tour of the new facility. [DNAinfo/Linze Rice]
The clinic's opening comes just as the city's Department of Public Health released a report last week on sexually transmitted infections and prevalence of HIV diagnoses, both of which showed high concentrations in Rogers Park and Edgewater.
From 2014 to 2015, Edgewater was among one of the top neighborhoods in the city seeing newly diagnosed cases of HIV at a rate of 67.2 cases per 100,000 people, the city's data showed.
Similarly, the study found Rogers Park and Edgewater were among the top neighborhoods where residents are currently living with HIV — 1,165 cases in Edgewater (or a rate of 2,061 people for every 100,000) and 932 cases in Rogers Park, a rate of 1,695 cases per 100,000 residents.
Edgewater, just a block south of the new health center, saw some of the highest averages of other infections that can spread through unprotected sexual contact as well: 50 reported syphillis cases, 386 reports of chlamydia and 234 cases of gonorrhea.
Magda Houlberg, a doctor and the clinic's Chief Clinical Officer, said though cases of HIV have mostly been down across the city, black gay men and trans women living in the Rogers Park area are among the most vulnerable populations that have accounted for some of the local increase — though sexual partners across the board are also using sexual protections less, like condoms.
"A lot of it is just basic access to health care," Houlberg said, adding there aren't many HIV and STI care providers in the city.
The new clinic in Rogers Park will have sexual health screening, as well as HIV and STI testing.
Speakers also touted the importance of the Affordable Care Act as a means to provide care to patients, some of which lack insurance or are undocumented immigrants.
"If I were sick, I'd walk into the front door of this clinic confident," Durbin said. "[ACA critics] would have to explain what would happen to this clinic" if the law was repealed.
Schakowsky agreed, adding it was up to "all of us" that the quality of the care given at the clinic wasn't "threatened" by the Republicans' planned repeal of the ACA.
"Imagine what could happen in the meantime," she said.
One of 10 individual exam rooms. [DNAinfo/Linze Rice]
A Walgreens pharmacy is on hand for patients to use. [DNAinfo/Linze Rice]
The upstairs community center. [DNAinfo/Linze Rice]
Views of Clark Street from a room that has the potential to be transformed into a dentist's office through the clinic in the future. [DNAinfo/Linze Rice]
U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky takes a look inside the Gerber/Hart Library, which shares the building with Howard Brown. [DNAinfo/Linze Rice]
Gender neutral bathrooms are provided throughout. [DNAinfo/Linze Rice]
David Ernesto Munar, president and CEO of Howard Brown Health Center, cut the ribbon at the new facility in Rogers Park Monday. [DNAinfo/Linze Rice]
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