Founded in 1985, the Comprehensive AIDS Program of Palm Beach County (CAP) provides and promotes education, advocacy, and compassion to individuals and families affected by HIV and AIDS in Palm Beach County. Dr. Rik Pavlescak, CAP’s Chief Program Director states that CAP is “the oldest and largest community organization serving people with HIV/AIDS in the county.” CAP provides a wide array of services to HIV positive individuals, and a variety of prevention and risk reduction programs to the community.
Dr. Pavlescak began working with CAP in 1989 as a volunteer. “I was new to Florida and hoped to find other gay men who were interested in doing something good for their community.” Eager to get involved, he attended a volunteer orientation on a Saturday morning. “I found myself sitting with a small group of straight women whose sons had either passed away or were very ill with AIDS. I was impressed that the Executive Director at the time actually showed up on a Saturday morning to conduct the session. I realized that the CAP: “Caring About People” was more than just their slogan.”
Eventually, Dr. Pavlescak began consulting for the agency, developing programs, writing grants and administering small projects. “At the time I was doing consulting, training, and grant writing for other organizations throughout the U.S. I also served on the Board of Directors and then as Board President for the Stop AIDS Project of South Florida, Inc.”
In 1993, Dr. Pavlescak became the Executive Director of Compass. Even while working at Compass, he maintained a strong connection to CAP. “When I left Compass, CAP called with more projects for me to work on and I accepted them because I saw great things were happening there.” It was during that time when he met CAP employee Brad Mann. The two have been together ever since.
After many years of consulting, Dr. Pavlescak accepted a position with the agency. “I knew I would enjoy working with the leadership team, and I’ve been very grateful for the opportunity to work with so many dedicated employees who are really mission-driven.”
CAP maintains offices in the four highest HIV incidence areas of the county. “We have an incredible staff who is really dedicated to the cause.” Dr. Pavlescak is proud to say that more than 50% of the staff have been with the agency for 5 years or longer.
Each year CAP serves more than 1,700 people living with HIV/AIDS—in some years it has been more than 3,000. “CAP offers different programs which have separate funding sources and unique eligibility criteria, so sadly, not every service is available for every client at all times,” Dr. Pavlescak states referring to the 26 programs offered.
CAP’s operating budget each year is in excess of $5 million. A large portion comes from county, state, and federal grants, although this year the Health Care District cut more than $360,000 from HIV case management services. “Unfortunately, the clients and needs for these essential services have not been reduced. In fact, clients are living longer and there are more of them, with increasing needs.” CAP is currently refocusing their fundraising efforts on private donors and non-governmental support.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the organization. “We’re celebrating by bringing back some of the initiatives we did a long time ago such as drag shows in local bars to raise funds and awareness.” These events will lead up to a large 25th anniversary celebration in October. In addition, CAP will participate in and benefit from this year’s SMART Ride. “CAP is really pleased to be participating. Brad and I volunteered on the crew for the last ride and it was an incredible experience.”
Despite a rough economy, Dr. Pavlescak remains optimistic about the future. “I keep focused on our mission: providing and promoting education, advocacy and compassion to those infected and affected by HIV/AIDS. This is an entirely preventable disease and I want to be sure that everyone knows how to protect themselves from becoming infected with the virus.”