Justin Goforth, the director of community relations at Whitman-Walker Health, the community health center specializing in HIV/AIDS and LGBT-centric care, and a registered nurse with more than 20 years of experience in treating those with HIV/AIDS, was elected last week as community co-chair of the Metropolitan Washington Regional Ryan White Planning Council. The community co-chair is the council's sole elected position.
As co-chair of the council, Goforth will serve as the primary liaison to community organizations that provide services to those with HIV/AIDS, and to various communities affected by the disease. The planning council, which is made up of government officials, community health providers and HIV/AIDS advocates, sets priorities for the delivery of HIV/AIDS services and allocates about $30 million in federal resources each year for HIV care and support services in the D.C. region.
''It's a great honor for me to not just serve on the Planning Council but to also be a leader in the fight against HIV here in the D.C. metropolitan area, including suburban Maryland, Northern Virginia and parts of West Virginia,'' Goforth said in a statement. ''The Council plays a critical role in devising strategy and allocating resources to ensure that our efforts to treat people with HIV are effective and efficient. And by getting people into treatment, we can continue to reduce the rate of both new HIV infections and AIDS deaths in the D.C. area. This is the cause I have dedicated my life to and I'm proud to have this opportunity.''
Goforth, who himself is HIV-positive and was recently named to POZ Magazine's ''POZ 100'' – a list of HIV-positive individuals making significant contributions in the fight against HIV/AIDS – has experience overseeing Whitman-Walker Health's nurse case management, nutrition and treatment adherence programs in various capacities, as well as social services and referrals to health providers outside of Whitman-Walker. He also previously served as director of the Gay Men's Health and Wellness Clinic, the longest-running program at Whitman-Walker, which provides STD testing, treatment and sexual-health counseling.
Goforth is also specifically credited by Whitman-Walker as having played a role in creating Whitman-Walker's ''Red Carpet'' program giving newly diagnosed HIV patients an opportunity to meet their entire care team – from doctors and nurses to lab technicians and counselors – during their first visit to Whitman-Walker. The ''Red Carpet'' program is considered a model for treating those with HIV and is credited with helping reduce the number of AIDS cases in the city by linking those infected with treatment and support services as early as possible.
Whitman-Walker Health Executive Director Don Blanchon issued a statement praising Goforth's selection as co-chair of the planning council.
''We are very proud of Justin,'' Blanchon said. ''He has devoted not just his career but his life to the fight against HIV and AIDS. His commitment doesn't end when he leaves his office at the end of the day; it extends into his volunteer efforts. Justin's work has and will continue to have a lasting impact on the epidemic here in D.C.''