MILWAUKEE — Wisconsin's two leading organizations in the fight against AIDS merging.

The Madison-based AIDS Network and the Milwaukee-based AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin announced their plans Thursday. The merger will be effective Feb. 1, and the combined organization will operate as the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin.

Leaders of both groups say the merger should help provide better services and improve outcomes for patients statewide.

The combined group expects to annually provide services to 4,000 people with HIV throughout the state.

All current staffers will have the opportunity to continue working with the merged group. ARCW President and CEO Michael Gifford, who will remain in charge, says it's likely the staff will grow given the expected increases in the needs of people living with HIV for health care and services.