By Karen Stokes
Vivent Health, formerly the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin, recently announced the location of their new Milwaukee clinic at 1311 N. Sixth Street near the Deer District.
The new location is on the northwest corner of Sixth Street and McKinley Avenue in downtown’s West Town neighborhood. Vivent Health’s current Milwaukee clinic is at 820 N. Plankinton Avenue. Its corporate and administrative offices are at 648 N Plankinton Avenue.
The new location will provide Vivent Health with 46,277 square feet of space, which is a 33% increase from their current location. Vivent Health cared for nearly 5,000 patients in 2021; the additional space will enable Vivent Health to care for an additional 1,000 patients. The renovations of the one-story building, which was formerly occupied by Milwaukee Area Technical College (MATC), is planned to begin August 15 with a tentative move-in date of April 1, 2023.
Quorum is serving as the architects and TriNorth is the general contractor for the new facility. The total cost of the project is anticipated to be approximately $9 million.
“We stepped into this space to make sure that they got the medical care that was necessary so patients could live a long and healthy life,” said president and chief executive officer, Mike Gifford.
The location was chosen specifically because it is in the heart of the area with the highest prevalence of people living with or at-risk of contracting HIV in the entire state. The increase in space at the new facility will allow Vivent Health to serve those from the most medically underserved areas in Milwaukee, namely the 53204, 53214, 53215, 53216 and 53218 zip codes.
Along with HIV medical care and prevention, Vivent Health also provides a multitude of services for their patients including HIV case management services, behavioral health care, dental care, pharmacy services, a food pantry, and legal and housing services.
What makes Vivent Health unique is its nationally-recognized HIV Medical Home model, which not only provides patients with the health care they need, but also the wrap-around social services needed to address social determinants such as access to healthy food, assistance with housing issues, and help with legal issues.
During Mike Gifford’s tenure, he led the transformation of Vivent Health from a social service agency into the nation’s premier HIV health care provider.
“The transition from a social service organization to a healthcare organization began over two decades ago. It began for one simple reason, the people we serve needed it,” said Gifford.
“The worst number of new HIV infections in the State of Wisconsin were in the early 1990’s with around 1000 cases recorded each year. Through aggressive prevention work by Vivent and other organizations in the community we’ve been able to drive that number down to about 250 new infections a year,” Gifford said.
There are necessary tools available to prevent people from contracting HIV, like education, condoms, clean needle exchange and access to drug treatment.
The number of people living with HIV who’s disease progressed to AIDS has been reduced.
Gifford explained the reduction is because of successes in medical treatment, medications and all the support that our medical home provides. It’s more than just a pill that people take. Medicine is important but supporting them and ensuring they have access to insurance and ensuring homelessness or hunger doesn’t become a barrier to the success of their healthcare. The integrated model of care that we have is helping to create some of the best outcomes in the country.
Vivent Health has undergone a number of mergers in recent years, now making it the second largest HIV/AIDS provider in the country. Currently, Vivent Health has clinics in Austin, Denver, St. Louis, Kansas City and throughout Wisconsin.
“Our patients are the healthiest HIV patients anywhere in the country. It is measured by an undetectable viral load. Having an undetectable viral load means that you can’t transmit HIV to someone else. It’s great for the patient and great for the community,” Gifford said. “At Vivent Health, 96% have an undetectable viral load, nationally the number is about 60%.”