By Shirin Rajaee

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — A Sacramento health center that has been serving the HIV community for decades is going through changes that are upsetting the very population the clinic was built to care for.

The Center for AIDS Research and Education, also known as Cares Community Health Clinic, is changing its name and re-focusing its brand.

“We all feel as a collaborative effort that we’re being kicked out, kicked to the curb, and it hurts,” said Irene Ross, an HIV positive patient.

In 2014, the Cares did shift to become Cares Community Health, serving more than just HIV patients.

But on Monday, three days after World AIDS Day, there was a big change to its identity. And no one says they were notified.

A small group of protesters chanted outside the center as the name of the clinic was being changed.

“I’m not speaking for just me, I’m speaking for the entire HIV community that has depended on this clinic for over 20 years,” said Ross.

Ross has been using the Cares clinic since it opened. She says seeing the clinic get rid of the color red in their logo, which represented the fight against AIDS, and the word “Cares,” which stood for the Center for Aids Research and Education, is hurtful.

“Don’t take the aids component away, we need a safe haven, we need someplace we can go,” she said.

For Ross and others, these changes were abrupt, but CEO Christy Ward says they’re not turning their backs on their patients.

“They’re not being left behind, those patients with HIV, we’ll always be here for them,” said Ward.

She says services for HIV patients will continue, but they are re-branding in order to provide Medical, Dental and behavioral therapy services to a broader population of patients in need of medical care.

“With One Community Health the idea is that we want everyone to come into our community, that we’re not turning anyone away,” said Ward.

“Yes, they still provide services but you can tell the atmosphere is not the same,” said Ross.

Ward says in 2016 they served roughly 2,500 HIV positive patients, and that number went up to 2,700 this year.

But with 5,000 additional non-HIV patients now added in 2017, getting appointments has been challenging.

And that shift in care is felt most by their original patient population who now demand answers.

“When are you gonna step up and talk to us, the HIV community that this clinic was built for?” said Ross.

Ward says to better serve their expanded patient pool they just opened a new clinic today in the Arden Arcade area on Ethan Way.

She adds the main center will be moving into a bigger building come January so that patients needing appointments can get in quicker.

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