Damien Center's history is rich with innovation, growth, and leadership in the fight against HIV. Established in response to the local AIDS crisis, Damien Center is now a local and national leader in HIV care and prevention.
When Earl Conner, an Episcopalian minister, became alarmed at the growing AIDS crisis in Indianapolis, he began to form a vision for coordinated community response that would unite existing groups within one facility. With support from Christ Church Cathedral (Episcopal) and the Cathedral of Saints Peter & Paul (Catholic), Conner established Damien Center in April of 1987.
Since then, the Center has provided care to thousands of individuals affected by HIV and their friends and families and has become a leader in HIV prevention and care. Though established at a time when those infected with HIV were progressing quickly to an AIDS diagnosis and then death, Damien Center today empowers individuals as they live with HIV.
Damien Center is named after the Blessed Father Damien, a Belgian Catholic priest famed for his compassionate care for those affected by Hansen's Disease (leprosy) on the Hawaiian island of Molokai. Father Damien battled the religious and societal rejection of Hansen's Disease victims, living with and among them in the Molokai "lepers' colony" from 1873 until his death from Hansen's Disease in 1889. Father Damien was beatified by Pope John Paul II and became a saint in October of 2009.
Though founded as an inter-faith collaboration, Damien Center is now a fully independent, non-sectarian, not-for-profit public corporation. Today, Conner's vision lives on as the Center continues to innovate in the fight against HIV/AIDS.