AIDS Arms is now Prism Health North Texas

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John Carlo at AIDS Arms 30th anniversary celebration at Cathedral of Hope in December 2016. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

DAVID TAFFET  |  Senior Staff Writer

More than 30 years ago, a case management agency was created in Dallas to write grants for a network of HIV agencies providing different forms of care throughout the community. They called it AIDS Arms Network. The “Arms” part stood for “Activating Resources to Mobilize Support,” although nobody could ever really remember that part.

Through the years, AIDS Arms grew and evolved. After the Ryan White CARE Act began funding AIDS agencies, AIDS Arms dropped the word “Network” and began developing its own programs. As new medicines for HIV went from experimental to prescribed treatments during the 1990s, AIDS Arms became involved in direct patient care.

The agency now operates two medical clinics — Peabody and Trinity — but direct medical care isn’t its only program.

Among others, the HIVE on Inwood Road is an empowerment center. The Free World Bound program not only connects the recently incarcerated with HIV to medical care, but also helps them with housing and employment. Health, Hope and Recovery works with the homeless HIV population and Viviendo Valiente with HIV-positive Hispanic people.

This week, to more accurately reflect the agency’s missions and its programs, AIDS Arms became Prism Health North Texas.

Why change?
The agency changed its name for several reasons, according to CEO Dr. John Carlo. He said the name-change process took several years and incorporated input from clients, staff and the community.

Officials announced the new name at a reception on Thursday, Feb. 9.

Carlo stressed that only the agency’s name is changing; management, doctors and services all remain the same.

Carlo said the process of changing the name began about two years ago. “We started with values,” he said. “What do people think about when they think about our mission?”

Those values, he continued, include compassion, confidentiality and providing healthcare to everyone, regardless of ability to pay.

Not only was the old AIDS Arms name out of date, it never really made much sense to most people, Carlo said, adding that agency officials wanted to remove AIDS from the name for several reasons.

“We had a strategic discussion about removing AIDS from the name,” Carlo said. “Across the board we had no push back on that.”

He said that 30 years ago it was important to include the word AIDS because no one word say it.

“We recognize where we are today,” Carlo said. “No one wanted to say AIDS then. Today our activist role is much different.

“Today, it’s not as much about AIDS as it is about preventing and treating HIV,” he explained.

Prevention takes a variety of forms including education and using PrEP, the CEO noted. That education includes training the medical community, something Carlo is in a perfect position to do: He was recently named president of the Dallas County Medical Society. One of his goals is to increase knowledge of treating the transgender community.

Today, the agency’s role is about overall health, and that includes much more than HIV. The agency has already been actively screening its patients for Hepatitis C, which can be deadly if untreated. New treatments not only control Hep C, but can actually cure it, Carlo said that at Prism Health North Texas, doctors at Peabody and Trinity clinics hope to treat all of their clients with Hep C within the next year or two.

Choosing a name
Carlo said they didn’t expect the name change process to take this long, but finding a name that could be trademarked took more time than they expected.

More than two years ago, a committee met to brainstorm ideas for a new name. The word everyone loved was “Thrive,” because it described how people with HIV were now living, and it had the letters HIV within the name.

Unfortunately, that name was already in use and not available for the agency to use.

Another challenge, Carlo said, was choosing a name that didn’t look too corporate.

Into the future
As Prism Health North Texas moves into the future, it’s looking at serving a wider range of clients. Medical care for LGBT people has become harder to find in Dallas as some doctors that have treated the community for years have retired or scaled back their practices.

The Prism clinics have already begun seeing a few HIV-negative patients — the HIV-negative partners of positive patients, also known as sero-discordant couples.

That part of the practice has expanded recently as the clinics have begun participating in PrEP trials.

Now, Carlo said, Prism Health North Texas is looking for additional ways to offer care to the community.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February, 10 2017.