Charlottesville AIDS care center announces closure

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Peter DeMartino, executive director of Thrive—formerly AIDS Services Group—believes providing HIV-informed primary care will help the community take big strides toward ending the spread of the disease. Photo: Martyn Kyle. Peter DeMartino, executive director of Thrive—formerly AIDS Services Group—believes providing HIV-informed primary care will help the community take big strides toward ending the spread of the disease. Photo: Martyn Kyle.

Charlottesville’s only AIDS services organization (ASO) is permanently closing, the 29-year-old nonprofit announced this week.

Thrive, formerly known as AIDS Services Group, sent media outlets a press release late Thursday explaining that the group’s board made the unanimous decision to shut down Wednesday night.

“This was not an easy decision,” reads a statement from the board. “The community, our patients, members and staff have been deeply invested in our work and share our passion for serving this community. It is with deep sadness and regret that we make this announcement.”

The organization was founded in 1986, a year before the first antiretroviral treatment was developed for HIV. The epidemiology of AIDS has changed since those early days, and so have tactics to fight it, as C-VILLE explored in a feature last December on Thrive’s efforts to keep pace with those changes.

As the board explained in its press release, better treatments mean HIV-positive individuals are living longer—a good change, the release noted, but one that means many care services offered by ASOs are in less demand. Federal funding for treatment has also become more concentrated in major institutions, the statement explains, leaving less for smaller care centers.

Thrive’s organizational makeover was intended to carve out a new niche for the nonprofit in local healthcare, and included a shift to what executive director Peter DeMartino described as HIV/AIDS-informed primary care for all, with a special focus on populations at higher risk for contracting the disease, including young gay men and African-Americans.

Thursday’s press release said those efforts “ultimately proved unsustainable.” Donors stepped up with $440,000 in 2014, according to the statement, but the organization ended the year with a $70,000 deficit.

“The addition of behavioral and primary health care to our portfolio of services did not provide the sustainable revenue we hoped it would,” the release said.

According to the release, Thrive hopes to keep its doors open for 90 days to help find care elsewhere for its patients and work with other agencies the group hopes will adopts some of its federally funded programs.

The announcement noted in closing that Thrive is the fourth ASO in Virginia to close in the last year and a half.