Programming Connection

Making the Links Program 

Hassle Free Clinic
Toronto, Ontario
2018

What is the program?

The Making the Links program seeks to improve the health of gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (gbMSM) by addressing internal and external barriers to wellness through short-term supportive counselling and service navigation within the community. It is a program of the Hassle Free Clinic, a community-based clinic providing medical and counselling services in all areas of sexual health in downtown Toronto. This program is fully funded by the Toronto Urban Health Fund.

The program consists of two streams:

  1. The Prevention Program aims to address the underlying issues that gbMSM have that may be at the root of risk-taking behaviour through short-term counselling and referrals to other mental health and social services. The goal is to help clients engage in safer sex practices to remain HIV negative.
  2. The Aftercare Program is for gbMSM who test positive for HIV at the Hassle Free Clinic or one of its satellites. This program provides clients with free and confidential short-term supportive counselling and/or referral coordination services as a way to help manage their HIV care. The primary goal is to facilitate access to HIV care through support and referrals, with counselling to address issues that might hinder sustained engagement in medical care.

The program is run by a counsellor/program manager who has a presence at the Hassle Free Clinic. Once clients are connected to the program, there is an initial visit between the client and counsellor to discuss the client’s needs, including counselling topics or referrals that are relevant to the client. The program includes up to eight counselling sessions (with some flexibility) and clients can be linked to medical and/or social services, as well as community resources, through the program. Transition out of the program is different for each client; however, the goal is to ensure that the client is supported and that their needs are met, as determined by check-ins during counselling sessions.