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RAP building more beds for those living with HIV
Before the ground fully thaws from whatever wintry weather Mother Nature may be in the mood for, RAP Inc. will continue moving heaven and earth to help people diagnosed with HIV.
The task and their commitment are hardly new.
In fact RAP — which stands for Regional Addiction Prevention — has been at it for 43 years, and on Saturday kicks off a big celebration of the nonprofit's past, present and future efforts to curb and treat substance abusers and HIV/AIDS patients.
The fundraising event at the Washington Court Hotel, dubbed Sankofa: A RAP Celebration, doesn't come a moment too soon.
Just this week, the D.C. Appleseed Center for Law and Justice released its HIV/AIDS report card, and the city received good and not-so-good news.
D.C. earned high marks, that is A's and B's, for routine and rapid HIV testing, treatment (even for incarcerated populations, and public-private partnerships.
In two areas of concern, heavier lifting is needed on educating the public and, equally important, housing for residents diagnosed with HIV.
That is where RAP comes in.
When Ron Clark, founder and CEO of RAP, opened doors in 1970, D.C. was like many metropolitan hubs -- trying to curb and treatment then-common addictions to alcohol and heroin, and working with public-private partnerships to keep men employed and out of the school-to-prison pipeline.
In the intervening years, PCP, crack cocaine, HIV/AIDS, mental health issues (acutely among veterans) and drugs like K2 and various stimulants and opiates, meant creating new branches that would also focus on housing, and multiple chronic illnesses and and mental health services.
"We've always taken a holistic approach by trying to enhance a person's overall well-being physically, emotionally, spiritually and socially," Mr. Clark told me in a recent interview. "If they need a home, we help with that too."
A community within a community, RAP already provides housing services at properties it owns on 4th Street NE off Rhode Island Avenue.
This year, it broke ground to expand its Calvin W. Rolark Center, a project that will include a 34-bed, environmentally green development.
Mr. Rolark, a community stalwart and newspaper publisher, was a friend to RAP before it even opened.
"Dr. Rolark had been supportive of RAP from day one," Mr. Clark said. "He always asked, 'How can I help?' and that is what RAP asks."
While RAP's mission remains true to its name, Mr. Clark said it hardly can ignore the overarching issues, especially among the HIV/AIDS community.
Those issues are clearly glaring, as the Appleseed report card pointed out.
Like the meaning of the Akan word Sankofa, RAP is reaching back to seek a way to make forward progress.
And D.C. certainly needs help on the HIV/AIDS front.
Mayor Vincent C. Gray put it this way at this week's press conference on the HIV/AIDS report: "We've come a long ways, and we've got a long ways to go, which I readily acknowledge."
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About the Author
Award-winning opinion writer Deborah Simmons is a senior correspondent who reports on City Hall and writes about education, culture, sports and family-related topics. Mrs. Simmons has worked at several newspapers, and since joining The Washington Times in 1985, has served as editorial-page editor and features editor and on the metro desk. She has taught copy editing at the University of ...
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