After 31 years of serving HIV/AIDS clients, the Spokane AIDS Network (SAN) is no longer providing HIV care and prevention services due to loss of funding.
The Spokane Regional Health Department will be the new care provider to more than 200 former SAN clients, and HIV prevention and case management services will move there by March 31. Clients in Wenatchee, Chelan, Douglas and Okanogan counties will transition to Confluence Health, and SAN leadership is working closely with both clinics to mimic the wraparound services that clients have received for years.
The news came as a shock to both clients and the organization itself, says Gaye Weiss, SAN Executive Director. SAN suddenly lost 75 percent of its funding when the Washington State Department of Health chose not to award a contract in October, leaving the nonprofit to wonder how it would continue to be the resource — the care provider, the safe place, the hangout spot — it had always been for the HIV/AIDS community.
"We're trying to recreate this," says Weiss. "You have camaraderie, you're not being isolated, you're with a like-minded community. There's just so many more layers than medical care."
SAN reached nearly 3,000 people in the Inland Northwest through HIV education, prevention and care programs, and many have stepped forward to share their story of SAN's impact. At a bittersweet 31st anniversary party in December, Weiss says there were those who said they wouldn't be alive if not for SAN, and "that's what's hard to walk away from."
For now, SAN will focus on transitioning and supporting its clients, and selling off the tall, Victorian-style house that was a second home to many in the Inland Northwest.
"I'm still numb," says Weiss, "but there's being numb, and there's being proactive and making it work the best we can."