Positive Impact, AID Atlanta expanding services

Two Atlanta-area HIV/AIDS organizations are taking major steps forward in their growth and dramatically expanding services to those affected by HIV and those in the greater LGBT community.

Positive Impact is moving to a new location that’s nearly 50 percent larger and will allow its staff to offer behavioral health, primary care and HIV risk reduction services for its clients all in one place.

“That’s going to be a huge deal for us,” said Michael Baker, Positive Impact’s director of advancement. “[Clients will] receive almost all the services they need in one location, and it enables the providers to access the same clinical chart so everybody can see what’s going on with a client so nothing slips through the cracks.”

Cost for the move is estimated at about $30,000 that comes from a combination of individual donations and grants, Baker said.

The on-site HIV specialty primary care will be provided by Positive Impact’s longtime partner AID Gwinnett/Ric Crawford Clinic starting Nov. 1.

“Providing on-site HIV specialty primary care will open a new point of health care access for the nearly 300 individuals that Positive Impact’s MISTER Center identifies as positive each year. Positive Impact’s current and future clients will benefit tremendously,” said AID Gwinnett/Ric Crawford Clinic Executive Director Larry Lehman in a prepared statement.

The MISTER Center is a Positive Impact program that caters specifically to gay and bisexual men in metropolitan Atlanta.

AID Gwinnett and Positive Impact will also work together to provide HIV testing at Atlanta Pride. Last year, they tested more than 1,100 people over the weekend and they expect even more this year. Positive Impact typically tests about 400 clients in an entire month.

The expansion, the planning of which began last October, is another step in the growth of Positive Impact since opening its doors in 1993 primarily to provide mental health counseling services for those living with HIV. Since then, it has added a substance abuse treatment program, risk-reduction services for those living with HIV, HIV testing and STD screening and treatment.

There will be two phases to the expansion. The organization will take over the first floor of the new building the first week of October and then open up on Oct. 6. Then the second phase will begin in November or December when Positive Impact will take over at least half of the second floor. Once both phases are complete, the organization will have gone from 11,000 square feet at the previous location to almost 16,000 square feet in the new one.

“I really think the clients are going to respond favorably to it,” said Baker. “We really can’t wait to show it off.”

The group will interrupt services for the move starting Sept. 30 at 6 p.m. and resume services in the new location on Oct. 6 at 9 a.m.

AID Atlanta expands services beyond HIV/AIDS

AID Atlanta is broadening its scope and is making the transformation from an HIV/AIDS service organization to a comprehensive $700,000 health center offering primary care to the Midtown Atlanta community. The new AID Atlanta Health Center and Mark B. Rinder Center for Wellness will have its grand opening on Oct. 9.

“Our core mission will still be to stop the spread of HIV and one day find a cure,” said Jose Rodriguez-Diaz, executive director of AID Atlanta.

But the organization wanted to expand by addressing the many other health issues affecting the LGBT community.

“Gay men are dying more of anal cancer, or prostate or rectal cancer, than they are of HIV,” Rodriguez-Diaz said. “Our lesbian community is dying more of vaginal cancer and uterine cancer than HIV. So we are grouping it into a mission to really look at other chronic illnesses that affect our community and are killing our community more than just HIV disease.”

The primary care services will be provided by a new team of providers, including a new internist who is board certified in infectious diseases, a nurse practitioner with HIV and women’s health care experience, and a part-time psychiatrist. AID Atlanta also be able to offer laboratory services as well as radiological services like X-ray and ultrasound.

The Mark B. Rinder Center for Wellness is named for the longtime board chair who stepped down from the position earlier this year but still has a seat on the board and continues to offer financial and other support to the organization.

The Rinder Center will offer holistic care, chiropractic services, physical therapy, massage therapy, acupuncture, and, through a collaboration with Project Open Hand and Good Measure Meals, medical nutritional services.

The planning for the $700,000 renovation and expansion of services began shortly after Rodriguez-Diaz came on board this past January.

“My charge when I was hired was to find a way to build a sustainability plan for AID Atlanta that aligned with the Affordable Care Act,” said Rodriguez-Diaz.

The professional services firm Deloitte offered the organization a pro bono engagement and helped the organization design a business plan to help AID Atlanta achieve its goal.

Banking partner Wells Fargo then approached the organization to come up with a package that will fund the business plan, and within three months AID Atlanta agreed on a package that increased their line of credit.

“They came to us and felt strongly as a community partner that they wanted to support us in the process,” Rodriguez-Diaz said.

But AID Atlanta isn’t done expanding yet. In January, it will be moving the Evolution Project, its program which services young African-American men, to a new space on Spring Street that currently serves as campaign headquarters for Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Michelle Nunn.

psaunders@thegavoice.com | @patricksaunders