The first health clinic in the Fraser Valley that is geared toward gay and bisexual men opened this week in Abbotsford.
The centre will run every Monday from 5:30 to 9 p.m. at the Abbotsford public health unit, 34194 Marshall Rd.
The service is a partnership between Fraser Health and Health Initiative for Men (HIM) and is the fifth such clinic to open in the Lower Mainland.
The two agencies conducted an anonymous health survey, starting in March, of gay and bisexual men living in communities east of Surrey.
Dr. Michelle Murti, medical health officer with Fraser Health, said the survey indicated that one-quarter of respondents did not have a family doctor and one-third indicated they had not informed their doctor that they were sexually involved with men.
“There’s still a lot of stigma associated with it,” Murti said.
She said the health centre will be staffed each week by one or two nurses and will provide counselling, free condoms, testing for HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections, and information about sexual health in a safe and welcoming environment.
Murti said the clinic will also create a “bit of a community” for gay and bisexual men that could lead to other programs and services, such as yoga and wellness classes.
The first two health centres opened in Vancouver in 2009 and 2011, and Murti said about one-third of the clients were from the Fraser Valley from as far away as Hope and Chilliwack.
Clinics in New Westminster and Surrey opened last year and have been well-received, Murti said.
She said hours for the Abbotsford clinic could increase, depending on need.
The service is offered on a drop-in basis or by appointment at 604-488-1001 (ext. 227) or through the Abbotsford location at 778-988-1946 (only during clinic hours).
For more information, visit checkhimout.ca.