Our History and Heritage

Our History and Heritage

Mazzoni Center’s history over the past 40-plus years is an inspiring story of continuous evolution and singular focus.

In 1979, a small group of volunteers began organizing a subcommittee of the Gay Community Center of Philadelphia to improve the health of the lesbian and gay communities in the Greater Philadelphia area. One year later, now known as the Lavender Health Project, the organization received its first grant from the CDC and by 1981 was officially incorporated as Philadelphia Community Health Alternatives (PCHA), cementing its identity as an organization providing alternatives to healthcare and services to those most neglected and vulnerable.

By 1982, amidst the backdrop of a mysterious illness primarily affecting gay men, that intrepid group of volunteers was combing the gay dance clubs, bars, and bathhouses of Philadelphia, spreading the word about the virus that came to be known as HIV/AIDS. PCHA responded and began operating the Philadelphia AIDS Hotline, the first of its kind in Pennsylvania, and, by incorporating HIV care and prevention services to address the needs of our communities throughout the next twenty years, Mazzoni Center remained at the forefront of implementing effective services to combat HIV/AIDS. From the establishment of the first HIV testing site in Pennsylvania to the opening of the region’s first HIV-related housing program and HIV-specific food bank, Mazzoni Center has led the way in innovative and compassionate care and services for at-risk communities.

In 1998, Mazzoni Center established the Open-Door Counseling Program to address the behavioral health needs of LGBT individuals in Philadelphia and, in 2004, opened the doors to Mazzoni Center Family and Community Medicine, the Greater Philadelphia region’s only LGBT Community Health Center.

In 2005, the organization was renamed Mazzoni Center, after the late Dr. Peter Mazzoni, one of the organization’s founding board members – a physician who would take and transport blood samples to the hospital for testing when everywhere else refused to do so – who himself would tragically pass away from AIDS at age 31. Our mission is to “provide quality comprehensive health and wellness services in an LGBT-focused environment while preserving the dignity and improving the quality of life of the individuals we serve,” is as relevant today as it was 40 years years ago.

Mazzoni Center today has 130 staff and serves over 15,000 clients each year. We are the largest health and wellness center serving the Philadelphia LGBTQ community (and Philadelphia’s largest LGBTQ nonprofit of any kind). Services today include primary medical care, HIV and STI testing and prevention, gender-affirming care, behavioral health services, legal support, housing support, youth support in schools, LGBTQ+ competency training for businesses, and a food bank for those who are in need in our community. For many, Mazzoni Center is the only place they feel safe coming for care. Many of these individuals would have gone unserved if Mazzoni Center had not existed. We believe all people deserve access to high-quality, affirming health care in an environment where they feel respected and their needs are understood with a staff representing many in the LGBTQ+ community.

Mazzoni Center’s history provides a key to its future. Over the years, we have helped our community by providing services to those who might otherwise not receive them.

Providing for the well-being of our patients and clients means offering services that treat the whole person, all in one safe space. As we continue to change and grow, our commitment to our clients and patients remains the same. We continually seek to identify emerging needs and gaps in service in the LGBTQ+ community and to design and implement ways to address those needs successfully.

The Entire History of Mazzoni Center (Coming Spring 2024)

Annual Reports