Little did the handful of concerned citizens know when they met fifty years ago to discuss healthcare needs, that their concept would evolve into a community leader, one with a national reputation. Founded as the Fan Free Clinic, the concern was that everyone should be able to access healthcare, no matter of income or insurance qualifications.
The organization has often been there when no one else was. From the very beginning fifty years ago to the year 2020, Health Brigade has provided safe, nonjudgmental, quality healthcare to underserved populations. When AIDS hit Richmond, the Fan Free Clinic created the Richmond AIDS Information Network (RAIN) the first organized response in Central Virginia to the HIV epidemic. They formed buddy systems, ensuring that people kept their doctor’s appointments, made it to the grocery store and had someone to talk to at 3:00 A.M. when the hours felt so dark.
Meetings were held for family members, significant others. Support groups for people who had tested positive or had received an AIDS diagnoses gave safe spaces for people to talk. And scream.
The clinic was a leader in educating everyone about the disease through bold outreach efforts while much of the world, of Richmond, turned their backs.
The clinic has never rested on its laurels. Over the last several years Health Brigade has established extraordinary programs to reach folks that yet again, society has turned its back on. Drug addicts know that they can receive free, confidential support, not only at the North Thompson offices, but through the Clinic’s mobile unit that visits neighborhoods often.
Health Brigade’s transgender clinics supply free treatments and counseling to hundreds of transgender men and women who, quite often, have nowhere else to turn. The clinic staff visits local jails, reaching out to people who so desperately need a place to turn.
There is no way in such a limited space as this article, to fully explain what the Clinic has meant and does mean to our community. While their March celebration was cancelled, we still celebrate this phenomenal humanitarian movement we know as Health Brigade.
The graphic was the ad that was to appear in the 50th anniversary printed program. It was designed by Diversity Richmond volunteer, Lisa Cumbey, Propolis Design Group.