BREAK THROUGH | AIDS Arms held a Sledge Hammer Party to begin renovations to transform its property into a new HIV clinic. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

Agency hopes to serve many of the 6,000 people with HIV in the area not currently accessing health care

DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer

AIDS Arms broke ground Wednesday, May 4, on a new clinic at its former office location on Sunset Avenue in Oak Cliff. The agency held a Sledge Hammer Party to tear down walls inside the old building and begin new construction.

The clinic will be the agency’s second and will target people with HIV who do not otherwise have access to medical care.

Dallas County Health and Human Services estimates 6,000 HIV-positive people in the area are not accessing medical services.

The new Oak Cliff facility, scheduled to open by the end of the summer, will provide affordable care for up to 2,500 people.

“I think what’s important about this is we will serve a lot of people who were underserved who have HIV,” AIDS Arms board Chair John Loza said.

The new clinic will include a full-service pharmacy, laboratory, diagnostic and exam rooms and an HIV research center. A community resource center will provide space for AIDS Arms’ own support services and those of several other agencies to help clients access them.

AIDS Arms Executive Director Raeline Nobles said the resource room will offer a variety of social services in one place, including “legal services, child care, food, counseling, transportation.

“Then our clients can go home and take care of life. They won’t have to spend all their time taking DART from one agency to another,” she said.

Legal Hospice of Texas Executive Director Roger Weddell said his agency has an attorney at AIDS Arms once a month.

“If patient load picks up, we can schedule to have someone here more often,” Weddell said.

Rx Partners will open a full service pharmacy at the facility. Corey Legendre transferred with the company from Louisiana. He said that once clients turn in their prescriptions, their medications will be delivered.

AIDS Arms serves people from throughout North and East Texas, so the convenience of delivery using UPS or Fedex is an important service, Legendre said, adding that discretion and confidentiality are added benefits compared to buying medications in a busy chain store.

The pharmacy, which will be open to the public, will be the only private drug store in Oak Cliff.

Nobles said that the research the agency will be doing will include drug trials, new drug combinations and testing clients’ levels of tolerance of medications. She said they will also be doing some work with pre-exposure prophylaxis or PrEP, using the HIV drug Truvada with HIV-negative people to prevent them from contracting the virus.

Ephraim Garcia and Ed Amerson of Bank of America presented AIDS Arms with a donation of $15,000.

Garcia is an AIDS Arms board member and formerly worked for Resource Center Dallas. Amerson is with the BofA Pride group and works with the bank’s other affinity groups.

“This clinic is so important to the people we serve,” Nobles said. “Our new clients will love this clinic.”

AIDS Arms is the largest private nonprofit organization in North Texas providing HIV services.