‘A prescription for change’

Equitas Health’s mission continues

By Jim Bucher

If you grew up in the ’80s, then you remember the AIDS epidemic. There was so much confusion, uneducated knee-jerk reactions, and suffering—bottom line, it was predominantly killing tens of thousands of gay men. Something I’ll never forget.

With all the wild rumors, government inaction, and the like, the AIDS Resource Center (ARC) was born: a place for information on what to do and where to go, a one-stop respite for help. Its name has changed, but the mission continues.

“In 1984 a number of organizations across Ohio were created in response to the AIDS epidemic,” says Joel Diaz, chief marketing and community affairs officer for Equitas Health.

“At the time, all of these organizations were largely focused on providing compassionate end-of-life care and support and evolved over time to become social service organizations as anti-retrovirals and federal funding became available.”

It was a call to action for President and CEO Bill Hardy.

“Over the last 24 years his leadership spawned a series of consolidations and mergers which created the organization in its current iteration,” Diaz says. “The largest of these mergers occurred in 2011, when AIDS Resource Center Ohio (ARC Ohio) merged with the Columbus AIDS Task Force (CATF). It was soon after that merger in 2012 that we opened our first community health center and pharmacy in Columbus and then our second in Dayton in 2014.”

By the way, they had patients who used to ask to come into the back door of the health center because they didn’t want to be seen walking into an “HIV clinic.” This was part of the reason the organization decided, after 32 years, to remove AIDS from their name. ARC became Equitas Health.

“‘Equitas’ comes from the Latin word meaning, justice, fairness, and equity,” Diaz says. “Values we have always held close, but are now placed front and center as we offer a welcoming health care experience.”

The community health centers and pharmacies were created to provide a comprehensive patient-centered medical home model for people living with HIV. The model combines primary care, specialized HIV care, behavioral health, HIV supportive services, and pharmacy services in one place, in an attempt to remove any barriers to care.

“This model has been extremely successful at achieving significant health outcomes for our HIV-positive patients,” Diaz says.

It was so successful the group decided to look beyond HIV-positive patients at other medically underserved populations.

“The move to expand our mission and services came after recent research has demonstrated that reducing new HIV infections and increasing the number of individuals with undetectable viral loads is best achieved within the context of meeting the broader health care needs of highest-risk populations, especially within the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer/questioning (LGBTQ) community,” Diaz says.

In our current political climate, organizations like Equitas Health are needed more now than ever.

“Despite recent advances in civil rights protections, LGBTQ people still face significant health disparities,” Diaz says. “Continued marginalization and bias put these individuals at increased risk for negative health outcomes like mental health disorders, substance abuse, homelessness, and suicide.”

Diaz tells me that the Trump administration is proposing a slew of devastating budget cuts, which threaten to roll back the progress in the fight against the domestic HIV epidemic and will diminish every community’s ability to deliver quality health care to people living with HIV.

At one time, it seemed like AIDS was on the front burner on national newscasts for years, now not so much, but the need is still there.

“When Charlie Sheen came out as HIV-positive and announced he was undetectable, we rode a brief wave of national media attention, but you’re right, HIV/AIDS has largely been placed on the back burner,” Diaz says. “We continue to see almost 1,000 new HIV infections in Ohio every year. Young men ages 13 to 29 represent the group with the highest rates of new HIV infections. The need is definitely still there.”

Equitas is proud to serve everyone. Recently, the health center added dental care to its services.

“The Equitas Health Pharmacy is a fully serviced pharmacy open to the public and functions as a social enterprise 100 percent of profits are reinvested back into our health and social service programs across Ohio,” Diaz says. “Anyone can help support our work by having their prescriptions filled at our pharmacy. We call it ‘A Prescription for Change.”’

The mission continues and so too does the fight.



Equitas Health Dayton Pharmacy is located at 1222 S. Patterson Boulevard, Suite 110 in Dayton. For more information about the pharmacy, please call 937.424.1440. For more information on Equitas services, donations, or volunteer opportunities, please call 937.461.2437 or visit EquitasHealth.com.

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For over 25 years, Jim Bucher has been a regionally known and loved local television icon. “Buch’s” followers describe him as trustworthy, fun, the guy next door, a friend and role model. You can promote your business with Buch and grab your customer’s attention! Reach DCP freelance writer Jim Bucher at JimBucher@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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