Deanna Clatworthy: A Pioneer in Transgender and HIV/AIDS Healthcare
Deanna Clatworthy is a local pioneer in HIV/AIDS and transgender health care. Over the years, Clatworthy had many friends who experienced discrimination, bullying, and and lack of access to health care because of their sexuality/gender. She became passionate about finding ways to provide health care for marginalized people. Before she began her current career as a registered nurse, however, she was involved in theatre and dance. She owned a dance studio for twenty five years and she worked with Royal City Music Productions, as a choreographer, director and board member. In 2010, Clatworthy began volunteering at the HIV/AIDS Resources and Community Health (ARCH) clinic in Guelph. She went back to school in her 40s to study registered practical nursing and later completed her Bachelor of Nursing at McMaster University. She has also studied HIV at Harvard, and became an Addiction Counsellor. She became the clinic director/nurse at ARCH in 2012.
In 2015, after hearing from a local focus group of trans folk, ARCH launched a small clinic to provide better health care for transgender people. It is one of only a few clinics providing transgender care in Ontario. Initially serving only 30-40 patients, today, the clinic serves 200. In addition to her clinic services, Clatworthy makes home visits for patients needing emergency attention. She also helps patients with food, clothing, medicine, transportation needs, and social events.
Clatworthy’s efforts have helped grow the ARCH programs substantially. ARCH Clinic provides healthcare for HIV/AIDS, transgender healtcare and sexual health services to more than 500 patients. Sexual health services include testing, treatment and PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis.) Clatworthy spends an extraordinary number of hours raising awareness, which is also sometimes done through fundraising events, including the annual Taste for Life event. Although the 2020 event was cancelled due to COVID-19, the event usually raises $20 000 for ARCH. Clatworthy is a knitter and she started the Red Scarf Project after hearing from her patients about the discrimination that they faced. She thought that if people wore red scarves in the community (a giant version of the red AIDS ribbon) then her patients would see that there were people in the community that loved and supported them. Patients were thrilled to see so many red scarves in the community and the initiative had a noticeable impact on their patients' mental health.
Beyond the walls of ARCH, some of Clatworthy’s activism extends to public education and awareness, including that of other medical professionals. When asked why she does all this, Clatworthy's reply is that it gives her hope that one day, people will come to understand the hardships and discrimination many of the ARCH patients experience, and that the community will come together to support and accept each individual with love and understanding.
Deanna Clatworthy pausing from a busy day of responsibilities at ARCH. Used with permission by Deanna Clatworthy.
A poster featuring two women wearing knitted red scarves made by the many volunteers contributing to ARCH's Red Scarf Initiative. Image used with permission by Deanna Clatworthy.