Before the first cases of what we now call AIDS were diagnosed in Colorado, a group of citizens concerned about the yet unnamed health threat met to formulate a local response. By 1983, with only 17 documented cases of the disease in Colorado, this group became Colorado AIDS Project (CAP).
Initially, Colorado AIDS Project's services consisted of a fledgling food pantry, a part-time case manager, and a volunteer "Buddy" program. At the time, CAP existed to provide support to those living with HIV, share any new information about HIV as it was being discovered and, often times, provide a place for clients to die with dignity.
In the late 90’s, the AIDS epidemic experienced a new kind of crisis. Drug advances helped decrease the number of AIDS-related deaths, but also caused a misconception that the disease was cured. Hope was confused with victory. In reality, infection rates continued to rise. As medical advancements helped the disease become more manageable, HIV/AIDS morphed into a chronic disease with a whole new set of challenges. In addition to the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS, many of the clients who walked through CAP’s door were from the neediest, poorest and most disenfranchised populations.
In response, Colorado AIDS Project adopted an innovative approach to chronic disease management that focused on creating healthy, self-sufficient lifestyles through an integrated evidence based program of individualized services and a continuum of care. Today, the organization’s programs include case management, mental health and substance abuse counseling, an award-winning food bank, transportation services, housing services, legal referrals, and an employment center, in addition to a wide array of prevention counseling, testing and education programs.
In October 2011, CAP became known as Denver Colorado AIDS Project (DCAP) following a merger with three other AIDS Projects throughout the state of Colorado: Northern Colorado AIDS Project in Fort Collins and Greeley, Southern Colorado AIDS Project in Colorado Springs and Pueblo, and Western Colorado AIDS Project in Grand Junction. Together these agencies formed the new Colorado Health Network, increasing the ability to sustain necessary services to meet the evolving needs of those impacted by HIV in Colorado.
In the summer of 2014, Howard Dental Center merged with Colorado Health Network, allowing CHN offices the opportunity to expand services offered in various parts of the state with the addition of oral health care.