We expand the body of knowledge and science needed to strengthen our foundation of care, advocacy, research and education. Through such learning, we empower everyone to live healthy, love openly, and achieve equality and inclusion.
The Institute's Focus Areas
Whitman-Walker has a long history of clinical research dating back to the early days of the AIDS epidemic. Our historic relationship with the LGBTQ community is our foundation and continues to be a main focus of the research department. We examine both emerging treatments for HIV and factors that contribute to HIV transmission and prevention. We study a range of topics to deepen the scientific understanding of other infectious diseases, physical and mental health outcomes, marginalized populations, and models of care.
Whitman-Walker’s policy team works with our healthcare providers, researchers, and with local and national advocacy groups on a range of issues important to LGBTQ health, the continuing fight against HIV, and healthcare reform. We aim to undo structural barriers to good health and wellbeing through new policy ideas, public and policymaker education, strategic partnerships, and litigation.
Whitman-Walker believes that we have a responsibility to not only provide the highest quality, affirming care to the patients that come through our doors but that we can use what we have learned to train others and help ensure that all patients receive that level of care, free from discrimination and judgment. We coordinate trainings for medical students, trainees, and professionals across a range of specialties on topics including LGBTQ health, HIV care, and diagnosis and management of sexually transmitted infections. Additionally, we offer a multi-level curriculum of general and specialized LGBTQ competency and other trainings to licensed clinicians across many disciplines.
In partnership with the National LGBT Cancer Network, Whitman-Walker convened two summits of leading educators, health care providers, researchers and patient advocates from across the country – in October 2018 and November 2019 – to develop best and promising practices for LGBTQ cultural competency training of health care providers and staff. This ongoing project will disseminate final recommendations in 2020.
Whitman-Walker has been at the forefront of the legal fight against LGBTQ discrimination by health care providers and insurance plans – from bringing numerous individual discrimination cases; to providing important input into the Obama Administration’s nondiscrimination rule under the Affordable Care Act; to fighting recent attempts to cut back on the Obama Administration’s rule; to participating in litigation that has vacated an HHS rule authorizing conscience-based discrimination by health care providers, staff and insurance plans.
Whitman-Walker Policy and Research staff have worked since 2016 with officials of the FDA, and representatives of blood donation centers, public health agencies, medical providers and LGBT advocates, on reform of FDA guidelines restricting blood donations by gay and bisexual men, and people with a history of commercial sex work or injection drug use. These discussions have resulted in significant reductions in the FDA’s deferral periods for such persons (from lifetime bans to 3 months), and in the design of a pilot study of screening questions based on recent sexual activities posing a significant risk of HIV transmission, which will begin in 2020.
Since the early days of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, Whitman-Walker lawyers have worked with the Social Security Administration to greatly improve the system for benefits to persons living with HIV and other medical conditions who are too sick to work. Whitman-Walker immigration specialists also have been leaders in the successful fight to eliminate the discriminatory ban on immigration by people with HIV, and to improve the availability for relief under the immigration laws for LGBTQ people facing persecution in their countries of origin.
Since 2002 we’ve been a partner in the longest cohort study of gay and bisexual men in LA, Baltimore/DC, Chicago, and Pittsburgh. We’ve helped track the effectiveness and variance of long-term HIV treatment in partnership with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and other participating health clinics. Together, SHARE has produced a wealth of data that has greatly improved the understanding and treatment of HIV disease.
Whitman-Walker Policy was a major contributor to a 2018 national report on LGBTQ poverty, Intersecting Injustice: A National Call to Action. The report was based on information obtained in a series of convenings of anti-poverty advocates and service providers around the country in 2016, including a convening hosted by Whitman-Walker.