The Whitman-Walker Clinic (WWC) is the largest nongovernmental HIV and AIDS medical and service organization in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.[1] It serves a primarily LGBT clientele. For 20 years beginning in 1986, Whitman-Walker Clinic focused almost exclusively on HIV/AIDS education, prevention, diagnosis and treatment. But in January 2008, the Clinic announced it washad nearly completed plans to expanding its services to non-HIV/AIDS-related health care.

The clinic is named for gay poet Walt Whitman (a former D.C. resident) and Dr. Mary Edwards Walker, a noted Civil War-era physician in the District and women's rights activist.[2][3]


Whitman-Walker Clinic operates a number of HIV/AIDS organizations in the D.C. metro area. Its main facility is the Elizabeth Taylor Medical Center at the corner of 14th Street N.W. and R Street N.W. in Washington, D.C. It administrative offices are located in two former townhouses (the original site of the Clinic was on 18th Street NW)[2] on nearby 14th and R Streets N.W. WWC also operates the Whitman-Walker Clinic of Northern Virginia (formerly the Northern Virginia AIDS Project), the Bill Austin Day-Treatment and Care Center, and the Max Robinson Center in the primarily African American and poor Anacostia neighborhood in Southeast D.C.[4] It opened the Whitman-Walker Clinic of Southern Maryland in 1992, but shuttered the facility due to financial problems in 2005.[5]

Whitman-Walker Clinic sponsors the D.C. AIDS Walk (held in early October) and the D.C. Capital Pride gay pride parade and festival (held in early June).[1][6][7]


Early yearsEdit

The Clinic was founded in November 1973 as the Gay Men's VD Clinic, part of the Washington Free Clinic.[3][8] In 1976, it split off as an independent organization and hired its first full-time staff. The Clinic was chartered by the government of the District of Columbia on January 13 1978. In 1981, Jim Graham became the clinic's president.[2][9][10]

AIDS and the 1980sEdit

In 1983, WWC launched its AIDS Education Fund to provide information and counseling to people with AIDS, an AIDS information hotline, and an HIV/AIDS prevention advertising campaign.[11] In 1984, WWC opened its AIDS Evaluation Unit, the first gay, community-based medical unit in the nation devoted exclusively to diagnosing and evaluating patients suspected of suffering from AIDS.[9] The AIDS treatment center expanded rapidly, and became a full-time clinic in 1986 recognized throughout the region for its cutting-edge and comprehensive HIV and AIDS treatment.[3][12] WWC opened its first housing unit for patients with AIDS in 1985, to provide destitute, homeless patients with a place to live while receiving treatment.[13] In 1987, Whitman-Walker opened its first dental clinic for patients with HIV and AIDS.[14]

Whitman-Walker faced its first financial crisis in 1986. The rising cost of health insurance for its staff and physicians, coupled with very high premiums for those involved HIV/AIDS work, threatened to force the clinic to close when it could not purchase insurance. The City Council attempted to pass legislation adding the Clinic's staff to the city health insurance plan, but the bill died. The Clinic eventually found insurance, however.[15]

In 1988, as Whitman-Walker expanded its services throughout the D.C. metropolitan region, it encountered significant resistance and setbacks. WWC initiated its Northern Virginia AIDS Project in 1987. But the Clinic was unable to find space for its operations for some time. In one case, the Clinic was denied housing by a landlord who allegedly did so out of fear and/or homophobia. The landlord claimed the Clinic had not met certain leasing and payment requirements, and a judge agreed. WWC eventually found other space.[16]


Whitman-Walker Clinic faced another financial crisis in 1990. Once more, insurance costs were the problem, and once more the City Council backed a plan to subsidize the clinic's health insurance costs. Although the City Council approved the plan, Mayor Marion Barry vetoed the bill and the Council was unable to override. The Clinic was able to find insurance once more, albeit at very high prices.[17]

Whitman-Walker Clinic opened its Max Robinson Center in Southeast D.C. in 1992, and in Southern Maryland in 1993.[10][18] The Clinic's expansion efforts, however, caused conflict with some other service groups. For example, in 1993 WWC applied for a million-dollar HIV/AIDS grant from the District of Columbia. WWC competed for the grant against a coalition of primarily African American service and outreach groups. The Clinic won the grant, angering some community leaders and activists who felt the city had discriminated against black organizations in favor of the white-led Clinic.[19] Local community leaders also opposed the Clinic's expanding housing program, fearing for the health and safety of their communities.[20]

Whitman-Walker Clinic also adopted oral testing for HIV in 1993 before most major AIDS clinics in the U.S.[21]

In 1995, the Clinic established a program under which patients may sell their life insurance policies to the organization in exchange for an annuity. Critics claimed that Whitman-Walker would benefit only if its patients died, making this a conflict of interest.[22]

Recent leadership turnover and financial difficultiesEdit

Whitman-Walker Clinic has suffered from a number of personnel issues in the 1990s and 2000s. In 1993, WWC's new director of clinical services was found to have falsified a resume. The Clinic's Board of Directors initially refused to fire the physician, but was forced to do so a month later after public outcry.[23]

Graham departed the Clinic in 1999 to run (successfully) for the D.C. City Council.[24] Since then, the organization has had significant turnover among its leadership.[25]

Graham's replacement was Cornelius Baker, an HIV-positive civil rights and HIV activist.[26]

But only a year into Baker's tenure, WWC announced it was suffering from significant financial problems, which led to the closure of several programs and facilities. The District of Columbia is heavily reliant on Whitman-Walker Clinic to provide a significant amount of its HIV/AIDS testing and outpatient treatment.[27] Clinic officials blame the District's exceedingly high per-capita rate of HIV and AIDS,[28] the collapse of several major fund-raising ventures (including the bankruptcy of the AIDS Ride and much reduced attendance at the AIDS Walk),[29][30] rising meth addiction (which often leads to higher incidents of HIV infection),[31] and overdependence on government grants and funding rather than private insurance.Cite error: Closing </ref> missing for <ref> tag.[32]

Baker resigned as executive director of Whitman-Walker Clinic in 2004. Baker told the Washington Blade that the Clinic's financial difficulties had negatively impacted his health. He also cited personal reasons for leaving.[26]

The search for Baker's replacement was a lengthy and difficult one.[33]

During the search process, Whitman-Walker continued to hemorrhage money. In May 2005, the District of Columbia government announced that the Clinic had overcharged the city $2 million for services. Rather than risk its government funding, the Clinic was forced to immediately repay the money, creating severe financial pressures. Staff were not paid for a month, and layoffs and program cuts occurred in August. Liquidity issues became so severe that WWC warned it might close. The City Council quickly passed legislation speeding up city payments to the Clinic (which had lagged during the city's own financial crisis), and awarding new emergency grants to the organization to keep it afloat. The surge in funds going toward Whitman-Walker deeply angered many other AIDS and minority groups, who felt the Clinic was being rewarded for its mismanagement simply because it was "too big to fail."[34]

The Clinic continued to make changes and cuts throughout 2006. Accused of having an unwieldy, over-sized Board of Directors, the Clinic reduced the size of its board, laid off staff, and restructured lines of authority. In January 2006, Whitman-Walker announced a turnaround plan which would refocus its work away from solely providing care to people with HIV and AIDS and adding health care services unrelated to HIV/AIDS. The clinic would also focus on providing health care to entire families rather than just individuals.[35]

On March 13 2006, the Whitman-Walker Clinic Board of Directors announced it was hiring Donald Blanchon to take over as chief executive officer on May 1. Blanchon, who is heterosexual, was formerly chief executive officer of Maryland Physicians Care (a managed care health plan in Maryland) and vice president for Medicaid and Medicare programs at Schaller Anderson (a medical management firm).[33] Blanchon quickly announced his support for the Board's turnaround plan. A week later, Whitman-Walker Clinic announced it would sell its two properties on 14th Street and the Max Robinson Center in Anacostia and seek to build new, larger medical treatment facilities in the two respective areas by 2009.[36]

But just four months later, Blanchon fired two long-time leaders of Whitman-Walker Clinic, leading to renewed concerns that the Clinic's financial and personnel issues had not been resolved.[37]

On January 11, 2008, Blanchon said the Clinic has almost completed its transformation into a primary care medical organization. WWC hired Dr. Raymond Martins, assistant clinical professor of medicine at the Georgetown University School of Medicine as its new chief medical officer, purchased and installed a state-of-the-art computerized patient record-keeping system, and outsourced its financial management department. Although Whitman-Walker also laid off unspecified number of employees due to the outsourcing, Blanchon said the Clinic is still the area's largest provider of HIV/AIDS education, prevention and treatment.[38]

The Clinic also said it was suspending plans to sell all of its existing buildings in order to finance a new, high-rise medical center. WWC announced in January 2008 that it would receive funding from the D.C. Primary Care Association which would enable it to keep its buildings on 14th Street NW. The Clinic said the tenative funding agreement would shutter the Max Robinson Center in Ward 8 and open a new, larger facility in Ward 7.[4]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Boorstein, "Maintaining Awareness, One Step at a Time," The Washington Post, October 7, 2007.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Gregg, "Clinic for Gays Provides Specialized Treatment," The Washington Post, March 5, 1981.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Rupert, "D.C. Clinic Draws Praise for Its AIDS Work," The Washington Post, November 20, 1988.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Chibbaro, "More Changes Planned for Whitman-Walker," Washington Blade, January 11, 2008.
  5. Levine, "Clinic's Troubles Years in Making," The Washington Post, June 6, 2005.
  6. Silverman, "AIDS Walk at 20," The Washington Post, October 8, 2006.
  7. Montgomery, "For Region's Gay Community, A Day of Pride With a Purpose," The Washington Post, June 13, 2005.
  8. Levine, "After 39 Years, End of a Health Institution," The Washington Post, January 14, 2007.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Vargas, "D.C. Gay Group Battles 'AIDS Fatigue,'" The Washington Post, August 13, 2006.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Brown, "Honoring Those Who Help Ease the Pain," The Washington Post, November 20, 1993.
  11. Engel, "Private NW Clinic Has Support Plan For Victims of AIDS," The Washington Post, September 22, 1983; "AIDS Phone Line," The Washington Post, October 6, 1983; Lewis, "Apprehensive Callers Swamp AIDS Hot Line," The Washington Post, November 9, 1991.
  12. Engel, "Full-Time Clinic To Treat AIDS Planned in D.C.," The Washington Post, September 6, 1986.
  13. Specter, "'Secret' House Provides Financial Refuge for AIDS Victims," The Washington Post, August 31, 1985.
  14. Gregg, "District's Whitman-Walker Clinic Comes of Age," The Washington Post, May 27, 1987.
  15. Engel, "4 Community Clinics in Area Face Closure," The Washington Post, January 25, 1986; Engel, "D.C. to Consider Insuring Four Private Clinics," The Washington Post, February 11, 1986.
  16. Hsu, "D.C. AIDS Clinic Rebuffed in Quest for Va. Site," The Washington Post, December 10, 1988; Baker, "Va. Judge Throws Out Suit by AIDS Clinic," The Washington Post, December 29, 1988.
  17. Milloy, "AIDS Clinic Fights for Its Own Life," The Washington Post, June 14, 1990; Barker, "District Expected to Help Clinic," The Washington Post, June 14, 1990; Abramowitz, "D.C. Posed to Subsidize AIDS Clinic," The Washington Post, July 4, 1990; Abramowitz, "D.C. Stalls Furlough Plan, Backs AIDS Clinic Subsidy," The Washington Post, July 11, 1990; Abramowitz, "Barry Kills AIDS Clinic Insurance Subsidy," The Washington Post, July 29, 1990.
  18. Sutner, "Whitman-Walker to Open AIDS Outreach Center in Southeast," The Washington Post, November 26, 1992; Goldstein, "Clinic Widens Its Reach to AIDS in Md. Suburbs," The Washington Post, January 7, 1993.
  19. Goldstein, "AIDS Groups Go Head-to-Head With Whitman-Walker," The Washington Post, August 25, 1993; Goldstein, "City Giving AIDS Clinic $1.2 Million," The Washington Post, June 16, 1994.
  20. Although some argued that ex-drug addicts and people with HIV might create health problems for nearby residents, others pointed to an incident at a Whitman-Walker housing project several years earlier in which a gay man had sodomized a teenager. See Hall, "New Neighbor Upsets Some," The Washington Post, July 28, 1994.
  21. Goldstein, "Whitman-Walker Adopts Oral HIV Test Before Other Big AIDS Clinics," The Washington Post, January 16, 1997.
  22. Pan, "D.C. AIDS Clinic Makes Deal With Insurance Buyer," The Washington Post, September 11, 1995.
  23. Harris, "Clinic Won't Fire Official Who Falsified Resume," The Washington Post, October 14, 1993; Harris, "Clinic Director Replaced," The Washington Post, November 18, 1993.
  24. Williams, "7 Members Sworn In, Altering D.C. Council," The Washington Post, January 3, 1999.
  25. Goldstein, "Whitman-Walker Tries to Recover From Troubles," Washington Post, December 19, 1999; Goldstein, "Whitman-Walker Announces Replacement for Ousted Director," The Washington Post, December 17, 1999; Goldstein, "Whitman-Walker Chief Forced to Leave," The Washington Post, December 10, 1999.
  26. 26.0 26.1 Crea, "Baker to Leave Whitman-Walker," Washington Blade, December 10, 2004.
  27. Goldstein, "Audit Faults D.C. Payments to AIDS Clinic," The Washington Post, January 20, 1994.
  28. Goldstein, "Clinic Can't Keep Up With AIDS," The Washington Post, May 19, 1995; Johnson, "In a City With A Big Problem, Trying to Turn A Corner on AIDS," The Washington Post, December 2, 2005.
  29. Morello and Smith, "Charities To Drop AIDS Ride Promoter," The Washington Post, May 31, 2002; Morello, "Charities Peddle Their Own Bike Ride," The Washington Post, September 22, 2002; Morello, "Expenses Eat Profits Of District AIDS Ride," The Washington Post, August 27, 2002; Argetsinger, 2 D.C. Charities Had Cut Ties to Firm, The Washington Post, August 26, 2002; Morello, "Revenue Drop Causes Clinic To Reevaluate AIDS Walk," The Washington Post, October 24, 2002.
  30. Leonnig, Carol D. (October 5, 2003), “Annual D.C. AIDS Walk Returns to Health”, The Washington Post 
  31. Andriote, "Meth Comes Out of the Closet," The Washington Post, November 8, 2005.
  32. Whitman-Walker Clinic officials blame the events of 9/11 for a major downturn in AIDS Walk participation in 2001 and 2002, but the lower turnout began three years earlier. See Murphy, "Fewer Walk the Walk Against AIDS," The Washington Post, September 27, 1999.
  33. 33.0 33.1 Weill-Greenberg, "Whitman-Walker Clinic Names New Leader," Washington Blade, March 17, 2006.
  34. Chibbaro, "Whitman-Walker Plans Layoffs, Program Cuts," Washington Blade, May 20, 2005; "Minority AIDS Groups Question Clinic Bailout," Washington Blade, August 12, 2005.
  35. Chibbaro, "Whitman-Walker Unveils Strategy for Turnaround," Washington Blade, January 13, 2006.
  36. Lynsen, "Whitman-Walker to Sell 3 City Properties," Washington Blade, March 24, 2006.
  37. Chibbaro, "New Whitman-Walker Chief Fires Two Leaders," Washington Blade, July 20, 2006.
  38. As of January 2008, Whitman-Walker Clinic had a staff of 220 employees and a $24 million annual budget. Chibbaro, "More Changes Planned for Whitman-Walker," Washington Blade, January 11, 2008.


  • Abramowitz, Michael. "Barry Kills AIDS Clinic Insurance Subsidy." The Washington Post. July 29, 1990.
  • Abramowitz, Michael. "D.C. Posed to Subsidize AIDS Clinic." The Washington Post. July 4, 1990.
  • Abramowitz, Michael. "D.C. Stalls Furlough Plan, Backs AIDS Clinic Subsidy." The Washington Post. July 11, 1990.
  • "AIDS Phone Line." The Washington Post. October 6, 1983.
  • Andriote, John-Manuel. "Meth Comes Out of the Closet." The Washington Post. November 8, 2005.
  • Argetsinger, Amy. "2 D.C. Charities Had Cut Ties to Firm." The Washington Post. August 26, 2002.
  • Baker, Peter. "Va. Judge Throws Out Suit by AIDS Clinic." The Washington Post. December 29, 1988.
  • Barker, Karlyn. "District Expected to Help Clinic." The Washington Post. June 14, 1990.
  • Boorstein, Michelle. "Maintaining Awareness, One Step at a Time." The Washington Post. October 7, 2007.
  • Chibbaro Jr., Lou. "More Changes Planned for Whitman-Walker." Washington Blade. January 11, 2008.
  • Chibbaro, Jr., Lou. "New Whitman-Walker Chief Fires Two Leaders." Washington Blade. July 20, 2006.
  • Chibbaro, Jr., Lou. "Whitman-Walker Plans Layoffs, Program Cuts." Washington Blade. May 20, 2005.
  • Chibbaro, Jr., Lou. "Whitman-Walker Unveils Strategy for Turnaround." Washington Blade. January 13, 2006.
  • Crea, Joe. "Baker to Leave Whitman-Walker." Washington Blade. December 10, 2004.
  • Dickson, Virgil. "HIV/AIDS Patients Find Other Options: Takoma Park Clinic Closed 2 Years Ago." The Washington Post. August 30, 2007.
  • Engel, Margaret. "D.C. to Consider Insuring Four Private Clinics." The Washington Post. February 11, 1986.
  • Engel, Margaret. "4 Community Clinics in Area Face Closure." The Washington Post. January 25, 1986.
  • Engel, Margaret. "Full-Time Clinic To Treat AIDS Planned in D.C." The Washington Post. September 6, 1986.
  • Engel, Margaret. "Private NW Clinic Has Support Plan For Victims of AIDS." The Washington Post. September 22, 1983.
  • Goldstein, Amy. "AIDS Groups Go Head-to-Head With Whitman-Walker." The Washington Post. August 25, 1993.
  • Goldstein, Amy. "Audit Faults D.C. Payments to AIDS Clinic." The Washington Post. January 20, 1994.
  • Goldstein, Amy. "City Giving AIDS Clinic $1.2 Million." The Washington Post. June 16, 1994.
  • Goldstein, Amy. "Clinic Can't Keep Up With AIDS." The Washington Post. May 19, 1995.
  • Goldstein, Amy. "Clinic Widens Its Reach To AIDS in Md. Suburbs." The Washington Post. January 7, 1993.
  • Goldstein, Amy. "Whitman-Walker Adopts Oral HIV Test Before Other Big AIDS Clinics." The Washington Post. January 16, 1997.
  • Goldstein, Avram. "Whitman-Walker Announces Replacement for Ousted Director." The Washington Post. December 17, 1999.
  • Goldstein, Avram. "Whitman-Walker Chief Forced to Leave." The Washington Post. December 10, 1999.
  • Goldstein, Avram. "Whitman-Walker Tries to Recover From Troubles." The Washington Post. December 19, 1999.
  • Gregg, Sandra R. "Clinic for Gays Provides Specialized Treatment." The Washington Post. March 5, 1981.
  • Gregg, Sandra R. "District's Whitman-Walker Clinic Comes of Age." The Washington Post. May 27, 1987.
  • Hall, Charles W. "New Neighbor Upsets Some." The Washington Post. July 28, 1994.
  • Harris, Hamil R. "Clinic Director Replaced." The Washington Post. November 18, 1993.
  • Harris, Hamil R. "Clinic Won't Fire Official Who Falsified Resume." The Washington Post. October 14, 1993.
  • Hsu, Evelyn. "D.C. AIDS Clinic Rebuffed in Quest for Va. Site." The Washington Post. December 10, 1988.
  • Johnson, Darragh. "In a City With A Big Problem, Trying to Turn A Corner on AIDS." The Washington Post. December 2, 2005.
  • Levine, Susan. "After 39 Years, End of a Health Institution." The Washington Post. January 14, 2007.
  • Levine, Susan. "Clinic's Troubles Years in Making." The Washington Post. June 6, 2005.
  • Levine, Susan. "HIV-AIDS Clinic Shifts Focus Amid Budget Cuts." The Washington Post. January 12, 2006.
  • Lewis, Nancy. "Apprehensive Callers Swamp AIDS Hot Line." The Washington Post. November 9, 1991.
  • Leonnig, Carol. "Annual D.C. AIDS Walk Returns to Health." The Washington Post. October 5, 2003.
  • Lynsen, Joshua. "Whitman-Walker to Sell 3 City Properties." Washington Blade. March 24, 2006.
  • Milloy, Courtland. "AIDS Clinic Fights for Its Own Life." The Washington Post. June 14, 1990.
  • "Minority AIDS Groups Question Clinic Bailout." Washington Blade. August 12, 2005.
  • Montgomery, Lori. "For Region's Gay Community, A Day of Pride With a Purpose." The Washington Post. June 13, 2005.
  • Morello, Carol. "Charities Peddle Their Own Bike Ride." The Washington Post. September 22, 2002.
  • Morello, Carol. "Expenses Eat Profits Of District AIDS Ride." The Washington Post. August 27, 2002.
  • Morello, Carol. "Revenue Drop Causes Clinic To Reevaluate AIDS Walk." The Washington Post. October 24, 2002.
  • Morello, Carol and Smith, Leef. "Charities To Drop AIDS Ride Promoter." The Washington Post. May 31, 2002.
  • Murphy, Caryle. "Fewer Walk the Walk Against AIDS." The Washington Post. September 27, 1999.
  • Pan, Philip P. "D.C. AIDS Clinic Makes Deal With Insurance Buyer." The Washington Post. September 11, 1995.
  • Rupert, James. "D.C. Clinic Draws Praise for Its AIDS Work." The Washington Post. November 20, 1988.
  • Silverman, Elissa. "AIDS Walk at 20." The Washington Post. October 8, 2006.
  • Specter, Michael. "'Secret' House Provides Financial Refuge for AIDS Victims." The Washington Post. August 31, 1985.
  • Sutner, Shaun. "Whitman-Walker to Open AIDS Outreach Center in Southeast." The Washington Post. November 26, 1992.
  • Vargas, Jose Antonio. "D.C. Gay Group Battles 'AIDS Fatigue.'" The Washington Post. August 13, 2006.
  • Weill-Greenberg, Elizabeth. "Whitman-Walker Clinic Names New Leader." Washington Blade. March 17, 2006.
  • Williams, Vanessa. "7 Members Sworn In, Altering D.C. Council." The Washington Post. January 3, 1999.

External linksEdit

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