Local HIV/AIDS organization TPAN announced Jan. 19 that it would be merging with Milwaukee-based Vivent Health. The merger is expected to be finalized by March 1, according to both organizations.
Vivent Health, so named in 2019, is the result of mergers between a number of Wisconsin HIV/AIDS organizations, as well as those in St. Louis, Kansas City and Austin, Texas, over the last several years. TPAN would be the first Vivent facility in the Chicago area.
Kara Eastman, TPAN's CEO told Windy City Times that the merger was necessary in the face of declining resources even when the number of new HIV transmissions remains high.
"If we look at the numbers in a place like Chicago, there's still people being diagnosed with HIV," she said. "There's still people not being treated. There's still the need to get people on PrEP to prevent HIV. What's happening is you're seeing an uptick in Black and Brown communities being impacted by the epidemic. … [TPAN] needed to do something that would have an impact."
Eastman said that Vivent was "mission-aligned" with TPAN and would afford them more resources to support Chicagoans.
"Vivent Health is partnering with TPAN to ensure people living with HIV and at elevated risk for HIV exposure have direct access to critical health care, antiretroviral medications, and prevention and social services to combat co-occurring HIV, sexually-transmitted infection, and opioid epidemics in Chicago," said Brandon Hill, Interim President and CEO of Vivent Health, in a Jan. 19 statement. "While HIV is often associated with behavior, HIV exposure and transmission is underpinned by social and structural factors such as food insecurity, housing instability, and lack of employment opportunities. Which is why our unique integrated approach to HIV care and prevention is rooted in tackling broader inequities and removing barriers to care and services."
Eastman said TPAN officials will keep their current facilities in Edgewater, and hope to launch a number of new facilities and services at the location: "It will be all under one roof [and] coordinated care for our clients. … We love our location and our clients love it too."
She added, "[The merger] allows us to do the things we have been doing, but with even more medical care and pharmaceutical carewe'll have an onsite pharmacy, dental, behavioral health, a food pantry. To be able to do all that, to have all those resources, seemed to us to be a win-win."
Eastman maintained that the TPAN board was committed to ensuring that, following the merger, TPAN's name, legacy and spirit remain intact. Central to that is letting TPAN's central publication, the magazine Positively Aware, remain unchanged.
"It will come under [the auspices of] Vivent, but it will stay Positively Aware," she said. It will stay exactly as it is, an advocacy-focused magazine that highlights voices of people living with HIV and provides excellent, quality information and resources to people living with HIV. … We did not want the magazine to change."