After transitioning from hospice care in 1996 with the advent of lifesaving antiretroviral drugs, the facility then served as headquarters of AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s Public Health Division; now, the facility officially shut its doors with a sunset memorial ceremony on Jan. 26th
What: Chris Brownlie Hospice—Formal Closing—Sunset Ceremony
When: SATURDAY, January 26th 4 pm – 6 pm
Where: 1300 Scott Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90026 – RSVP at www.aidshealth.org/rsvp
(adjacent to Dodger Stadium)
Who: Michael Weinstein, President, AIDS Healthcare Foundation
Hon. Bill Rosendahl, Los Angeles City Council Member, District 11
Hon. Richard Polanco, former California State Senator instrumental in creation of AHF
Hon. John Duran, Councilmember, City of West Hollywood, and a member of the Gay Men’s Chorus, speaking on behalf of the 140+ members of the choir who passed away at Chris Brownlie Hospice
Hywel Sims, former Director of Chris Brownlie Hospice
Michael Nelson, former Assistant Director of Chris Brownlie Hospice
Terri Ford, Chief of Global Advocacy for AHF and former Food Services Director at Chris Brownlie
Whitney Engeran-Cordova, Senior Director of AHF’s Public Health Division
Reverend J. Robert Prete, Event Emcee, whose partner, passed away at Brownlie, and
Two performers from L.A.’s Gay Men’s Chorus singing “Pie Jesu” from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s ‘Requiem’
B-ROLL: The release of seven balloons in memory of the seven years CBH was open as a hospice at the same time the two performers from the Gay Men’s Chorus sing “Pie Jesu”
LOS ANGELES (January 24, 2013) – In 1988, learning one was HIV-positive meant only one thing: a terrifying clock had begun counting down to an unavoidable death from AIDS. There was only one, partially effective treatment for the virus then—AZT—and fear, coupled with devastation, overshadowed any glimmer of hope that one’s partner might make it through his battle, that one’s friend wouldn’t be lost, that one’s family member could have a different final outcome.
Then a new organization was founded on the idea that, if people were going to pass away as a result of AIDS, they should at least have the opportunity for their lives to end as painlessly and with as much dignity as humanly possible. That simple idea led to the creation of the AIDS Hospice Foundation (AHF), co-founded in 1987 by activists Chris Brownlie, Michael Weinstein, and Mary Adair. That same year, Brownlie – a writer who had helped found the Los Angeles Gay Community Services Center in the mid-1970s – found out he had AIDS.
Following an emotional plea for hospice care to the Los Angeles County Commission on AIDS and an AHF-led picketing of then-Supervisor Mike Antonovich’s home, the Board of Supervisors eventually committed $2 million to AIDS care. AHF began converting a facility in Elysian Park that had been Barlow Hospital’s old nursing quarters into Chris Brownlie Hospice—the County’s first AIDS hospice—which was named in Brownlie’s honor when it opened December 26, 1988.
The 25-bed hospice, the first of three operated by AHF, provided 24-hour medical and palliative care to people living through the final stages of AIDS. Brownlie passed away at the age of 39, on November 26, 1989, less than a year after the hospice named in his honor first opened, survived by his father, sister, brothers, his longtime partner, Phill Wilson and countless friends and fellow AIDS activists.
“Of course, I’ve always hoped that I would not die, that I would live forever,” Brownlie told the Los Angeles Times at the opening of the hospice in 1988. “But on another level, I actually get a sense of well-being about this experience. Sometimes it becomes very profound in a religious sense at the edges of my consciousness. And this is what the hospice program is about – it will help others accept the fact that death, too, is part of the life experience.”
“In small part, today may seem a bittersweet occasion as we turn a page and close this chapter in the history of AIDS and of AHF,” said Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation. “However, Chris would no doubt be amazed to see what has grown from our initial grassroots efforts to provide compassionate care in those early days of the pandemic, to the AHF of today—providing lifesaving care and services to nearly 200,000 individuals in 28 countries worldwide. In his poem ‘AIDS,’ Chris himself really said it best: ‘It is surviving and believing in the future.’ Today we honor that sentiment as we move forward in AHF’s mission both here in Los Angeles and everywhere around the world where we have a presence.”
In addition to Brownlie, over 1,000 people had been given dignified, specialized, compassionate final care at the Chris Brownlie Hospice by the time it ended hospice operations in September 1996. The world of AIDS had changed by then: new antiretroviral treatment meant an HIV-positive diagnosis signified a change in one’s life, not the end of it.
And as a result, AHF adapted with the changing needs of those living with the virus, as well: the nonprofit went from helping people with AIDS die well to helping them live well with the condition. The organization’s name changed from AIDS Hospice Foundation to AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which today is the largest AIDS service organization in the world, helping nearly 200,000 people in 28 countries around the world access treatment for HIV/AIDS as well as preventative measures and political advocacy.
The building that housed the Brownlie Hospice went through its own rebirths, housing various departments of AHF, including its most recent incarnation as the headquarters for AHF’s Public Health Division. But on Saturday, January 26, the organization will be officially turning the property back over to the City of Los Angeles with a sunset memorial ceremony celebrating the years of hope and help the hospice gave to thousands of brave people battling AIDS.
The sunset ceremony will be held from 4 pm – 6 pm at 1300 Scott Avenue in Los Angeles, and will feature a performance from some members of the Gay Men’s Chorus – a group that has lost hundreds of its members to AIDS, including 140 men who lived and died at the Chris Brownlie Hospice. Speakers at the event will include Michael Weinstein, President, AIDS Healthcare Foundation & co founder of Chris Brownlie Hospice; Hon. Bill Rosendahl, Los Angeles City Councilmember, District 11; Hon. Richard Polanco, former California State Senator instrumental in creation of AHF; Hon. John Duran, Councilmember, City of West Hollywood, and a member of the Gay Men’s Chorus, speaking on behalf of the 140+ members of the choir who passed away at Chris Brownlie Hospice; Hywel Sims, former Director of Chris Brownlie Hospice; Michael Nelson, former Assistant Director of Chris Brownlie Hospice; Terri Ford, Chief of Global Advocacy for AHF and former Food Service Director at Chris Brownlie; Whitney Engeran-Cordova, Senior Director of AHF’s Public Health Division; and Reverend J. Robert Prete, whose partner passed away at Brownlie, and who will serve as Emcee for the event. In addition, two performers from L.A.’s Gay Men’s Chorus will sing “Pie Jesu” as the sunset ceremony draws to a close and as seven balloons are released to signify the seven years the hospice was open and providing hospice care.