**FILE PHOTO**

Whitman-Walker will hold its 36th annual Walk to End HIV on the grounds of St. Elizabeths, where its new 116,000-square-foot health care facility is slated to open in 2023. 

The leading HIV clinic in Washington, D.C., provides medical treatment and maintenance for District residents affected by the viral disease. 

“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,” said Dwight Venson, External Affairs & Community Coordinator of Whitman-Walker.  It is also an “opportunity for them to come to get information, access to resources, and to kind of just see the building being developed in real-time.”

The clinic’s newest location 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 various concerns including STI/HIV, LGBTQ 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. D.C. continues to have high rates of new HIV infections despite efforts to lower these occurrences. 

According to the DC Department of Health’s DC Health’s annual HIV, Sexually Transmitted Infections, Hepatitis, and Tuberculosis Surveillance Report for 2021, roughly 1.7 percent (or 12,161 people) of the city’s population are reportedly living with HIV, with the leading cases being of Black men sleeping with men almost doubling the diagnosis rates of White men sleeping with men by 15%.

But while Whitman-Walker focuses efforts to assist newer cases of the illness, the health center additionally highlights the senior citizens surviving with HIV, who have managed with the disease into older age.  The opportunity to honor these thriving residents spawned the creation of Silver Pride, a host of events dedicated to the senior population to provide continued support, especially for those most isolated from the community.  

The celebratory activities 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, 

Venson wants all residents of Ward 8 to know they are welcome to participate in the Walk to End HIV and be among residents who fight in support of HIV awareness.  The upcoming event is Whitman-Walker’s pillar fundraiser that has already raised roughly 86% of its funding goal. 

“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 ovid-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.

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