Skip to main content
Ontario Medical Review
Dec. 18, 2023
Jessica Smith

‘Revolutionary’: HQ Toronto clinic draws clients from across Canada

Toronto-based clinic that offers mental and sexual health care sees high demand in first year

A Toronto clinic is making its mark by revolutionizing testing for sexually transmitted infections and offering other services to the 2SLGBTQ+ community.

HQ Toronto opened in July 2022 in downtown Toronto and serves cisgender men who have sex with men, as well as trans people and non-binary individuals. HQ Toronto uniquely provides both sexual health testing and mental health and social programming for the community under one roof.

It also offers rapid STI testing with typical turnaround times of one business day for results, compared to a one- or two-week standard wait time at other clinics.

“And that’s really revolutionary for Canada, and really the world, in terms of the speed of access to care that these individuals can get,” Dr. Kevin Woodward, executive and medical director at HQ Toronto, said in an interview.

The third episode in the Ontario Medical Association’s Centred on Care video series highlights the work of HQ Toronto. The series is documenting some of the groundbreaking innovations of select Ontario doctors in improving the delivery of health care and positively impacting patient lives beyond the clinic, hospital or operating room.

HQ Toronto has had almost 20,000 visits from more than 7,000 patients in its first year. More than 1,100 of those visitors came from outside Toronto, including from every Canadian province and Yukon and Northwest Territories. The demand for its services has “far surpassed” what the clinic’s team had anticipated, said Dr. Woodward.

Those visiting the clinic are asked some simple health questions at a kiosk, and HQ offers private rooms where patients can collect their own samples, with instructions on how to complete various swab tests. All testing is done on-site, including bloodwork.

When test results are ready, patients receive a text either instructing them to return to the clinic to discuss them or informing them that the results were negative.

HQ provides care regardless of whether a person has health insurance coverage, meaning it has a large number of uninsured people accessing its services. The clinic provides care free of charge to those without OHIP or other coverage, and bills back through OHIP for those with coverage from other provinces.

“We knew that the sexual health services could be innovative, and we also knew there was a huge need for mental health services within our community,” said Dr. Tim Guimond, a psychiatrist and director of mental health at HQ Toronto.

The clinic has also hosted a variety of community groups in its space, including the AIDS Committee of Toronto, the Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention, the Asian Community AIDS Services and the Centre for Spanish Speaking People. Others, such as Crystal Meth Anonymous, have held their support groups at the site as well.

The space has good ventilation so that Indigenous groups can use it for ceremonies such as smudging. There are also social activities offered, such as coffee and yoga nights.

The HQ team offers community legal clinics, including a Trans ID clinic where lawyers volunteer their services to help those navigating the process of changing their name and gender on their government ID. There is also a clinic that offers free drop-in help and advice for newcomers to Canada navigating the immigration and refugee legal system.

“The feedback we have had from our service users has been overwhelmingly positive as well,” said Dr. Woodward, noting the clinic is still in a “significant growth phase.”

“Every day we have between 150 to 200 individuals walking through our doors to access mental health services, sexual health or one of our programs, and the number of new individuals hasn’t slowed down,” he said.

“(It's) really revolutionary for Canada, and really the world, in terms of the speed of access to care that these individuals can get” Dr. Kevin Woodward, executive and medical director at HQ Toronto

Dr. Woodward said the clinic receives about 33 per cent of its funding from the Ministry of Health for the services it provides, while another 25 per cent of its budget comes from time-limited research grants and innovation funding through the Ontario HIV Treatment Network, which is also funded by the province. The remainder of its funding comes from grants and donation funds targeted for specific parts of the clinic.

The management team hopes to open services on weekends and increase the scope of the sexual and mental health services it provides but will need increased funding to do so.

The Centred on Care video series connects to the OMA’s important advocacy efforts, showcasing work that aligns with the OMA’s landmark Prescription for Ontario: Doctors’ 5-Point Plan for Better Health Care report, its 2023 progress report outlining urgent health-care priorities and a newly published report outlining solutions required for health-care reform.  

The series is part of the Value of Doctors campaign, which will continue to run into 2024 after the OMA elections. Catch up on the first and second articles in the Centred on Care series to learn more about how Ontario’s doctors are at the helm of health-system innovation.