Research at Whitman-Walker

Research at Whitman-Walker began more than three decades ago with industry-sponsored trials to test novel treatments for HIV. Since then our work has expanded to include both clinical and observational HIV research, as well as both foundation- and NIH-funded research studies on which we are the lead site. In partnership with Whitman-Walker Health, our affiliated federally qualified health center (FQHC), the Institute is proud to be a world-class leader in clinical and applied research, as reflected in milestones such as a recent NIH capital award for a state-of-the-art community-centered biomedical research facility to accelerate breakthroughs in HIV prevention and treatment at Whitman-Walker’s new flagship site in Southeast DC.

Our Impact

We contribute to Whitman-Walker’s mission by serving communities both locally and nationally who have been historically marginalized in health care and research: in the past 10 years, we have recruited more than 5,600 participants into research studies, of whom nearly half (47%) identify as Black and 12% as Hispanic/Latino, 50% are living with HIV, and 8.4% identify as transgender. Our growing portfolio of work is led by a diverse team of 11 expert investigators and supported by more than 40 staff, including dedicated administrative and data teams.

Whitman-Walker has been a partner site for industry-sponsored HIV drug trials since their inception, and we have participated in clinical trials for more than 80% of currently approved antiretroviral therapies. Overall, we have been involved in more than 140 trials of investigational therapies to prevent or treat HIV, helping to improve existing regimens and provide our patients and research participants with access to scientific breakthroughs. In 2014, we became the first FQHC-based research center to be selected as a site for the NIH-funded AIDS Clinical Trials Group, which we now jointly lead as part of the DC Clinical Trials Unit in partnership with George Washington University. Most recently, the Institute has expanded our focus beyond HIV to include topics such as gender-affirming care and early cancer detection, and we have increased our pipeline of investigator-initiated proposals to conduct demonstration, implementation, and evaluation research.

In collaboration with the Institute’s Policy and Education arms, we conduct community-driven applied research grounded in intersectional frameworks and socio-structural models to inform policy and practice dedicated to eliminating health inequities. In addition to an overall focus on marginalized communities heavily impacted by the HIV epidemic, key priorities include transgender health and wellness, sexual and reproductive health, substance use, healthy aging for LGBTQ people and people living with HIV, and chronic health outcomes and comorbidities for LGBTQ people and people living with HIV. Institute investigators employ a range of methods and approaches, including cohort studies, interviews and focus groups, biological and psychological testing, and scale development. We place particular emphasis on developing novel measures of patient-centered outcomes such as quality of life, as well as research focusing on the interplay between research and policy.

The Institute currently operates out of three locations with approximately 6,500 square feet of dedicated research space. This year, Whitman-Walker will open its new headquarters in Southeast DC, where the Institute will have two specialized research facilities: 8,100 sq. ft. of flexible, community-oriented research facilities for applied, social/behavioral, and public health research that we will occupy in 2023 and 9,400 sq. ft. of biomedical research space with advanced capacity for basic, clinical, and translational research, which we will open in 2024. The biomedical facility will feature a state-of-the-art research laboratory designed to achieve Biosafety Level-2+ (BSL-2+) compliance and a USP-797-compliant research pharmacy for non-hazardous sterile compounding for investigational drug product research. Overall, these specialized facilities will have the capacity to house 14 PIs and other research leads, 68 research staff, and host up to 21 concurrent participant visits, allowing us to advance our mission while continuing to build our scientific workforce. We will also continue to operate out of more than 5,000 sq. ft. of dedicated research space in our 14th Street NW location in close proximity to the 1525 Health Center site.

Interested in taking part in a research study? Click here to view our current research studies. 


Interested in taking part in a research study?