**FILE** People wait in line at the 2018 East of the River Festival sponsored by Whitman-Walker. (Arthur Stewart via Whitman-Walker)
**FILE** People wait in line at the 2018 East of the River Festival sponsored by Whitman-Walker. (Arthur Stewart via Whitman-Walker)

One of D.C.’s leading providers of care for individuals with HIV/AIDS will boost its services in neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River.

Whitman-Walker, a nonprofit health center, operates out its 14th Street NW headquarters, as well as the Max Robinson Center in Southeast, Youth Services Center at the Eastern Market in Southeast and the soon-to-be reopened Elizabeth Taylor Medical Center in Northwest. The center offers medical services and treatment to residents with HIV/AIDS and has expanded in recent years to include primary health services with an emphasis on queer women’s care and youth services.

Whitman-Walker plans to increase the services offered at its Max Robinson Center location.

“We have been east of the River for some time,” said Sandy James, chairman of the board for the Whitman-Walker Clinic Inc. “We want to make sure that all of the same services that are available in Northwest are available in Southeast. That includes a new pharmacy there.”

Whitman-Walker aims to expand its youth programming, primary and urgent care and behavioral health services for residents living in the East End.

Naseema Shafi, CEO of Whitman-Walker Health, said such expansion means learning and dealing with a different mindset in many cases.

“We know some residents east of the River have unique needs in the areas of behavioral health, substance abuse and patient communication and will address those,” she said. “We also know that there are other concerns such as housing, food security and economic security. It’s not just HIV care that we will offer. We see a patient for who they are and will offer everybody dignified care.”

Shafi said Whitman-Walker desires to reach out to the East End’s faith community but will do so in a thoughtful manner and seek to partner with schools. She said reaching out to community leaders and organizations will be part of the outreach strategy.

Don Blanchon, incoming CEO of the Whitman-Walker Health System, said he wants to raise $5 million for the expansion.

“We are planning to tap into our groundswell of givers,” Blanchon said. “Our average gift is $100 and we will try to work with those donors. We also plan to tap into wealthy individuals and foundations.”

Abby Fenton, chief external affairs officer of Whitman-Walker, spoke of the organization’s role in East End activities such as the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue Parade and the health expo that takes place after that event. She said Whitman-Walker staff are engaging the health councils in Wards 7 and 8 and will continue its community-based efforts with the East of the River Fall Festival and back-to-school events.

James Wright Jr.

James Wright Jr. is the D.C. political reporter for the Washington Informer Newspaper. He has worked for the Washington AFRO-American Newspaper as a reporter, city editor and freelance writer and The Washington...

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