Vivent Health Records, 1985-2019



Early responses to the AIDS crisis in Milwaukee were led by the Brady East STD (BESTD) Clinic. Its leadership quickly recognized that AIDS would be particularly devastating for Milwaukee, an urban center with a large gay male population. In January 1985, the BESTD Clinic Board of Directors formed the Milwaukee AIDS Project (MAP). With seed funding from the City of Milwaukee, MAP provided education and training programs to the community. By mid-year it became apparent that MAP needed a broader base of support to meet the increasingly difficult challenges raised by the AIDS epidemic. The AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin (ARCW) incorporated in August 1985 to provide a corporate structure that enabled AIDS services to expand in Milwaukee and throughout Wisconsin. The BESTD Clinic transferred MAP to ARCW in February 1986 where it became the operating HIV service entity of ARCW.

Over the next decade, ARCW expanded HIV services to include comprehensive support services for people living with HIV, extensive prevention services for the diversity of people at risk for HIV infection, and expansion of HIV services throughout the state to include ARCW facilities in Appleton, Eau Claire, Green Bay, Kenosha, La Crosse, Madison, Milwaukee, Superior, and Wausau. In February 2015, ARCW and AIDS Network (Madison) merged in order to strengthen Wisconsin's response to AIDS. Throughout its history, ARCW has been a staunch advocate for increased funding and enlightened AIDS policies.

The rapid expansion of ARCW's widely renowned HIV medical home continued with the organization's rebranding as Vivent Health on January 1, 2020 and the acquisition of AIDS Services of Austin on April 15, 2020. This followed the acquisition of St. Louis Effort for AIDS on September 1, 2018 and Rocky Mountain CARES on February 1, 2017. These changes further established Vivent Health's national leadership in the fight against AIDS providing unfettered access to care, achieving the finest quality outcomes for patients and achieving financial strength to continue to expand to meet the needs of people with HIV and at risk of HIV.


From the earliest days of the AIDS epidemic, Vivent Health believed it was essential to include government advocacy as a major part of its mission. The government response to AIDS was initially slow and minimal which required strong, effective advocacy to increase funding and ensure enlightened AIDS policies by government at the local, state, and federal levels.

ARCW focused its advocacy efforts on securing and increasing government funding to help build a comprehensive system of HIV prevention, care and treatment services throughout Wisconsin. ARCW's lobbying began with the State Legislature, Governor, and the State Department of Health Services, and soon extended to the City of Milwaukee, Milwaukee County, and other county governments.

Federal funding to fight AIDS appeared in 1990 with the passage of legislation known as the Ryan White CARE Act. However, funding made available by the legislation was not fairly distributed throughout the country. In 1994 ARCW leaders fought successfully to alter the funding formulas to be more fair to areas of the country that were not AIDS epicenters, but still had significant numbers of people with AIDS.


Beginning in 1986, ARCW provided AIDS education to the gay community. It conducted massive prevention outreach campaigns with condom distributions in gay bars and the unique Bag Boyz program encouraging self-pride, safer sex, and HIV testing. ARCW also took its prevention campaign to public sex environments and Internet chat rooms where sexual liaisons occurred.

In the 1990s a second wave of the AIDS epidemic affected racial and ethnic minorities with a disproportionately high rate of HIV infection. ARCW responded with a street outreach program bringing AIDS prevention and harm reduction counseling to minority drug users, women, and youth. Lifepoint needle exchange was launched to help prevent HIV infection and overdose deaths among drug users. Powerful prevention marketing campaigns supplemented ARCW prevention programs.


Throughout its history Vivent Health has worked to provide its clients with comprehensive social and health services. ARCW established its legal services program in 1989 to protect HIV patients from discrimination, health care provider refusal to treat, and denial of financial benefits. Vivent Health lawyers also provide estate-planning services and representation in landlord/tenant disputes and creditor/debtor issues. The Vivent Health housing program began in 1987 and continues to provide comprehensive housing services including rent assistance, transitional residential living, and family residential living.

On World AIDS Day, December 1, 1996 ARCW opened its Dental Clinic, which provides full preventive and restorative dental care. ARCW received a donation of dental equipment from the John Doyne Milwaukee County Hospital and employed its dentist to lead the new clinic. The Vivent Health Medical Clinic provides expert HIV treatment along with primary care to meet the needs of its patients. Over time, the Medical Clinic expanded from its inception in Milwaukee to Green Bay and Kenosha. In 2003 ARCW opened its Mental Health Clinic to provide counseling and psychotherapy for HIV patients, many of whom struggled with depression, post-traumatic stress, addictions, and other mental health issues. Ultimately, the clinic was renamed the ARCW Behavioral Health and Wellness Clinic with added services of psychiatric evaluations, addiction counseling and treatment and wellness programs. The Behavioral Health and Wellness Clinic currently operates in most ARCW locations statewide. The ARCW Pharmacy opened in 2011 to assure that all HIV patients have access to life-saving medications. The Pharmacy provides the most advanced HIV medications along with counseling to help patients manage and adhere to their medications. The Dental Clinic, Medical Clinic, Behavioral Health and Wellness Clinic, and Pharmacy are key components of the Vivent Health Medical Center, which has been designated as an HIV Medical Home by the State Department of Health Services and the federal government.