People Living With HIV/AIDS In Maryland Piecing Together Treatment

Armen Hareyan's picture

Some people living with HIV/AIDS in Maryland have been "forced to lookelsewhere" for treatment and other support services following theclosure of the Washington, D.C.-based Whitman-Walker Clinic's Takoma Park, Md., facility in September 2005, the Washington Post reports. According to the Post,some HIV-positive people living in the area are trying to find newresources for prescriptions, case management, emergency food vouchers,and mental health and nutrition counseling (Dickson, Washington Post, 8/23).

Theclinic -- which serves about 7,000 HIV-positive individuals in theWashington, D.C., area -- in May 2005 approved $2.5 million in cuts andannounced it would end permanently services in the Northern Virginiaand Maryland suburbs. Whitman-Walker in September 2005 shut down itsTakoma Park facility, but the Virginia Department of Health;Alexandria, Va.; and Fairfax and Arlington counties in Virginia pledgedto provide as much as $590,000 to allow Whitman-Walker to keep itsNorthern Virginia clinic operating until the end of 2006.Whitman-Walker in October 2006 announced that it would maintain itsoperations and clinic in Northern Virginia beyond 2006 because itsfinancial situation had improved (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 10/12/06).


Followingthe closure, some Maryland residents have found treatment and supportservices at local health departments or through advocacy, outreach andother programs, the Post reports. Others -- includingmany people from Prince George's and Montgomery counties in Maryland --turned to the Whitman-Walker clinic in the district, according to the Post.The district facility serves more than 1,900 people from suburbanMaryland, most of whom live in Prince George's and Montgomery counties,according to spokesperson Chip Lewis. Before the closure of the TakomaPark facility, the district clinic served 1,200 people from suburbanMaryland.

Erin Bradley, a spokesperson for the Prince George's Department of Health,said there are options for HIV-positive people living in suburbanMaryland. Bradley added that funds previously allocated to the TakomaPark clinic have been dispersed to other social agencies offeringservices such as transportation to medical appointments, emergency foodvouchers, and mental health, nutrition and substance-abuse counseling.Andrew Spieldenner, director of programs for the National Association of People with AIDS,said he disagreed with Bradley's assessment. He added that peopleliving with the disease in the area are inconvenienced and deniedaccess to care because they are required to go to several locations forwhat they used to receive at one facility.

According to the Post, HIV testing services also have been affected by the closure. The Suburban Maryland AIDS Reduction Team,which performs confidential HIV screening, had to find a new locationto conduct testing after the closure. SMART now offers no-cost testingon Wednesdays at the Holy Redeemer Metropolitan Community Church in College Park, Md. The group also offers tests at the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Serviceson Tuesdays and Thursdays, and SMART members operate a van in PrinceGeorge's County on Fridays. "We may not be able to do all the things weused to, but we are still here and we're trying," James Coleman,program director of SMART, said, adding, "The bottom line is that wejust want people to get tested" (Washington Post, 8/23).

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