September 28, 2009
On Thursday, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation opened a free HIV/AIDS treatment clinic at 2141 K St., Ste. 606. AHF, the country's largest nonprofit provider of HIV/AIDS care, came to the District because it is the "epicenter" of the US epidemic, said Director Michael Weinstein.
The opening of the AHF Blair Underwood Healthcare Center was attended by officials from the Obama administration, CDC and the March of Dimes, and by Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.). The absence of a District representative was noted by Weinstein.
City officials "told us we were not needed," said Weinstein. "They would not allow us to participate in its ADAP [AIDS Drug Assistance Program]," which provides free medication to low-income patients, he said. Noting that the District's infection rate is higher than that of Lagos, Nigeria, Weinstein said the city should welcome any help it can get.
A spokesperson for the District's HIV/AIDS Administration, Michael Kharfen, disputed Weinstein's account, saying the city welcomed AHF to its network of care providers.
A statement by Health Department spokesperson Dana Iverson said Care Pharmacies Network had won a competitively bid five-year contract to distribute AIDS drugs. City officials encourage eligible ADAP clients from all providers, including AHF's new center, to participate by visiting sites where CPN operates.
The Blair Underwood clinic, named for the Hollywood actor and AIDS activist, hopes to serve 300 to 500 patients, said Roxanne Cox-Iyamu, its medical director. Underwood said he lent his star power to AHF to draw African-American clients.
On a billboard above AHF's headquarters in Los Angeles, Underwood implores viewers to "Man Up" and get tested for HIV. "I need to talk to those men who are out there dating women who think this doesn't concern them," he said. "It does."