Twenty years have passed since Max Robinson, the nation's first African-American network news anchor, died from AIDS-related complications at Howard University Hospital. Sixteen years have passed since the opening of the HIV/AIDS service facility that bears his name.
On May 1, Whitman-Walker Clinic's Max Robinson Center in Anacostia will celebrate Robinson's birthday by hosting an open-house event.
The event will also mark the HIV/AIDS-services facility's 15th year of operations at its current location -- the center initially opened in 1992 at a different site before moving in 1993.
''I think we brought another opportunity for care and for prevention to a community that really did not want to talk about HIV and AIDS, and in some ways is still reluctant to address the seriousness of this problem that we're facing today,'' says Center Director Barbara Chinn, of the center's impact on the District.
''It is difficult to be different. It is difficult to be singled out. I can remember as a child when the word that could not be discussed was 'cancer.' Now people rally around those who are stricken by cancer. It's going to take the same type of effort to bring this out of the closet.''
In the years to come, Chinn says she hopes people will look at the Max Robinson Center not only as a resource for HIV/AIDS prevention and care, but also for annual checkups and for the care of other unmet health-care needs such as diabetes. The Max Robinson Center, she emphasizes, is a full-service, primary-care center.
In addition to HIV/AIDS support services, the Max Robinson Center provides primary medical care, dental services, and mental-health and addiction services.
Though she never met Robinson, founder of the National Association of Black Journalists, Chinn says he was a pioneer and will always be recognized for breaking through racial barriers.
''We recognize his work and his commitment to helping see that the under-served and those who are in need have their issues addressed. That is our mission here,'' she says, urging anyone who is not familiar with the center to attend the open-house event.
But Chinn's urgings go a step further, underscoring her view from the frontlines in the District's fight against HIV/AIDS: ''Please, please, get tested. And practice those things that reduce the possibility of your becoming infected, or your transferring the infection.''
The Max Robinson Center is located at 2301 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. SE. Free and confidential HIV tests are provided from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.