In July 2007, the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation made a donation to ACRIA to underwrite a study of the rapid identification and sustained treatment of depression in a high-risk population of HIV-positive people over age 50. In January 2008, the Keith Haring Foundation matched that grant to fully fund the study at $100,000. Building on the proven “MacArthur Foundation model,” developed as a cost-effective means to address depression that negatively affected an employee’s workplace performance, individuals were screened over the phone or in person using a simple questionnaire. Those diagnosed with depression received traditional treatment; however, they also received a weekly phone call from a mental health caregiver. This support may sound elementary—“Hello. How are you? Can I help with anything?”—but the results are profound. Together with the Keith Haring Foundation and Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, ACRIA demonstrated that this basic human contact can be a powerful tool in fighting the unacceptably high rates of depression, social isolation, loneliness, and stigma that affect the fast-growing population of people over 50 living with HIV. This tool is now known as the Mapplethorpe-Haring Model
The study also led to the development of a unique group therapy intervention that has literally saved lives. In addition to making the scheduled telephone calls to participants, ACRIA staff facilitated a weekly support group utilizing a dynamic, new therapeutic approach. Demand for the group grew exponentially as word of its impact on participants spread. In addition to serving as an ideal study sample and demonstration project, the group grew into a full-fledged supportive community.
In the intervening years, ACRIA has expanded this groundbreaking depression research to key US cities such as Chicago and internationally from Canada all the way to South Africa and Uganda.
Thanks to the pioneering support of the Keith Haring Foundation and the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, ACRIA in now in the process of publishing the results of this work, and sharing this highly effective and affordable model with HIV, mental health, and other service providers across the country and around the globe. This approach has the potential to reach and improve the lives of hundreds of thousands—if not more—people with HIV at highest risk for depression.