By Lindiwe Vilakazi
Saturday, October 22, Whitman Walker and their supporting sponsors will “Walk to End HIV” with ward 8 community members in the hope of bringing awareness, resources, and preventative measures to those residents facing greater risk of HIV transmission, while in support of those who face daily life battling the virus.
The leading HIV clinic in Washington, DC, supports a longstanding legacy of providing medical treatment and maintenance for District residents affected with the viral disease. Whitman Walker will hold the community walk on the grounds of their upcoming 118,000 square foot health care facility on the St. Elizabeths East Campus, slated to open in 2023.
“It’s a great opportunity for folks that have been curious about what this new building is going to be or folks that aren’t familiar with who we are yet. This is a great opportunity for them to come to get information, access to resources, and to kind of just see the building being developed in real-time,” said Dwight Venson, External Affairs & Community Coordinator of Whitman Walker.
The clinic’s second health facility is projected to serve an estimated 10,000 additional community members, extending the clinic’s standard services from the Max Robinson Center in Anacostia with an expansion of women’s health, and youth services, as well as a wide array of community resources able to address varying concerns including STI/HIV, LGBTQIA issues, and more.
While HIV infections remain active around the District, the ward 8 community has shown a significant presence of Black and Brown residents historically impacted by the virus, while the city continues to have high rates of new HIV infections despite various organizational efforts to lower these occurrences. Reported in February of 2022 by the District Mayor’s office, roughly 1.7 percent of the city population are living with HIV, with Black and Latino residents exceeding diagnoses in comparison to their respective populations, while Black residents are impacted at a 2.8 percent rate.
Silver Pride, Whitman Walker pride events dedicated to their senior citizen population, will additionally make a much needed return with a host of activities to honor the seniors who have faced a strong sense of isolation during the pandemic, and surround them with community. The celebratory activities spearheaded by the internal Silver Striders group within Whitman Walker, are sponsored by United Health Care who have provided donations of food, beverages, and funds to the Silver Strider’s initiative, as the organization jointly provides sponsorship for the clinic’s Silver Pride program.
“We love our senior patients and senior members of the Whitman Walker family because the seniors love us and the care they receive from us,” Venson said. “Unfortunately, this year we had to cancel Silver Pride activities because there was the new wave of Monkeypox and then the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, and just out of caution for them, we chose to postpone Silver Pride activities. So, with the walk being scheduled and deemed safe, we figure this would be a great opportunity to have some sort of Silver Pride activities.
All residents of the Ward 8 community are welcome to participate in the Walk to End HIV and be amongst residents who fight in support to spread HIV awareness. The upcoming event serves as a pillar fundraising opportunity for the community clinic, as the organization has already garnered roughly eighty-six percent of its monetary goal to help sustain their efforts in supporting its community.
“The existing rates of HIV, while they are going down, it’s important to remember that HIV is still prevalent amongst our community as a whole, and it’s still important that we have these conversations, especially in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as Monkeypox. The walk itself is a great space for advocacy to see folks of all different backgrounds come out together and rally around one cause, but it’s also a great opportunity for Whitman Walker to be celebrated in a sense for the work that we’ve done all these years,” said Venson.