For the last month, we’ve called for your stories about how those of you outside the Federal government —as people living with HIV, service providers, health department staff, advocates, and others—are applying the National HIV/AIDS Strategy to your work. In response, we have been hearing many great stories about what is happening in communities across the nation to implement the Strategy.
During the recent U.S. Conference on AIDS, we hosted a session on implementing the Strategy, during which we heard many compelling stories from community partners about activities underway to advance us toward the Strategy’s goals. Here are a few highlights of what was shared:
Building Medical Homes for Multiply-diagnosed, HIV-positive Homeless People Living in Rural North Carolina:
A health center in rural Dunn, North Carolina, is working to improve HIV outcomes for clients who are homeless or unstably housed and have mental health and/or substance use disorders. Lisa McKeithan of CommWell Health has observed that both navigators and partnerships are key to meeting the needs of these especially vulnerable clients. The center’s efforts are focused on improving access to care and rates of viral suppression among these clients who are in need of multiple services to successfully navigate the HIV care continuum. Through partnerships with a diverse network of more than 30 community providers and organizations, the health center connects clients with services such as housing or substance abuse treatment. CommWell Health’s navigators offer intensive services such as providing transportation for clients to mental health appointments, meeting with landlords, and helping clients obtain Social Security cards. Their efforts demonstrate what can be accomplished when communities pursue a more coordinated response to HIV, as recommended in Goal 4 of the Strategy. CommWell Health’s work is supported by a Special Projects of National Significance (SPNS) grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA)’s HIV/AIDS Bureau. That SPNS initiative is a multi-site demonstration and evaluation of HIV service delivery interventions for homeless people living with HIV.
Integrating Housing and HIV Care Data to Improve Outcomes in Florida:
To assist HRSA and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in implementing Action 4.A.2. of the Strategy, Palm Beach County, Florida is piloting a model for electronic data integration between housing and HIV care services. The county’s Housing Opportunities for Persons With AIDS (HOPWA) grant funds housing assistance and supportive services for more than 300 low-income people living with HIV (PLWH) in Palm Beach County. Understanding that PLWH who experience housing instability are less likely to achieve viral suppression, the West Palm Beach Department of Housing and Community Development has been looking for ways collaborate to improve these outcomes. With funding from a new collaboration between HRSA and HUD, the department is partnering with the local Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program on a new integrated data system that will include both HOPWA as well as Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program data. The goal of integrating the data is to allow for streamlined intake and assessment processes to accurately identify unmet needs of clients and connect them to appropriate services. It will also help the sites to quickly identify and conduct targeted outreach with clients that are no longer engaged in care and are in need of additional services or support. According to Mark White, the Housing and Community Development Administrator in West Palm Beach, the new system “puts everyone on the same team working toward the same goals.”
Providing HIV Testing and Linkage to Care to Disproportionately Impacted Populations in Dallas:
Among the four critical areas of focus in the Strategy is widespread testing and linkage to HIV care. Abounding Prosperity, a Dallas community-based organization, is putting that into action in the South— a region that has been prioritized in Goal 3 the Strategy due to its disproportionate rate of HIV. The organization has focused their testing efforts on two key populations also featured in Goal 3: young Black gay, bisexual, same-gender loving, and other men who have sex with men and Black transgender women. Kirk Myers, Abounding Prosperity’s CEO, shared with us that the organization offers HIV testing at various community events and venues in order to reach populations who are unlikely to visit a clinic for a test. By offering testing at more convenient times and places, they are able to uncover previously undiagnosed individuals as well as engage with those who are aware of their HIV status but are not in care. A portion of this work is supported by CDC’s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention. Check out Kirk’s brief video description here:
Co-locating Behavioral Health Treatment and HIV Medical Care in Tampa:
Working alongside the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to implement action 2.A.2. of the Strategy, the Drug Abuse Comprehensive Coordinating Office (DACCO), a community-based substance use disorder service provider in Tampa and surrounding Hillsborough County, Florida, has been working to integrate HIV services and behavioral health care to improve outcomes for PLWH in their community. The Strategy calls for comprehensive, coordinated, patient-centered care, including addressing HIV-related co-occurring conditions. Toward that end, DACCO has established collaborations with both a health center and the county health department so they can link clients who are diagnosed with HIV through one of their programs to HIV care. They have also added case management services to help individuals who are newly diagnosed connect to and remain in care. The case managers also follow up with individuals who are out of care and try to re-engage them. Since the sprawling county covers both urban and rural areas, DACCO also established a mobile unit, known as “the big purple bus,” to help make integrated primary care, behavioral health services, and hepatitis C services accessible to individuals who lack transportation or who are unlikely to visit a clinic. Their work is supported in part by a grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
Reaching the Strategy’s goals won’t be possible without everyone’s full participation. I commend these community partners for their efforts. As their examples illustrate, with strategic action, ongoing leadership, and collaboration across agencies and organizations, we are coming closer to the day when the Strategy’s vision will be realized.
What’s YOUR story? Learn more and click here to directly submit your 150-200 word story by September 30!
And ICYMI, here's one additional example from Diana Jordan of the Virginia Department of Health.