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August 10, 2015
Darryl Geddes 315 464-4828

Upstate receives $1.5M state grant to expand programs for HIV-positive individuals

SYRACUSE, N.Y.— The Designated AIDS Center at Upstate University Hospital, now known as Immune Health Services, has been awarded a $1.5 million grant to develop and expand programs that foster greater adherence to treatment protocols for patients infected with HIV. The grant is awarded by the state Health Department’s AIDS Institute.

Expanded programming will target those individuals who are new to care, likely to withdraw from care, at risk of dropping out of care and those who are not virologically suppressed. Program services will focus on linking and retaining people in care.

Evidence shows that patients retained in care have improved health outcomes and lower viral loads. People with undetectable viral loads are less likely to transmit the HIV virus to others.

“The grant support will help us respond to the governor’s initiative to reduce the gaps in HIV care and decrease new HIV infections,” said Kelley Flood, LMSW, program director for Immune Health Services.

The governor’s plan to end the AIDS epidemic in New York by 2020 includes three key points:

• Identify people with HIV who remain undiagnosed and refer them to care;

• Link and retain HIV-positive individuals to care in order to maximize viral suppression and prevent further transmission;

• Provide PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) to help keep individuals at high risk for contracting HIV remain negative.

According to Flood, the grant funds will expand services to provide individualized care to people newly referred for treatment. Comprehensive medical and psychosocial assessments will be taken of each patient, which will identify barriers to care and develop a plan to address them.

Flood notes that barriers to care are varied and may include housing, no insurance coverage or being under-insured, lack of financial resources (cash assistance, food stamps, employment) mental health, substance abuse, stigma related to being HIV positive, domestic violence, transportation, co-morbidities, health literacy, etc.

“HIV is a chronic disease; adherence to treatment protocols can enable someone with HIV infection to live a completely normal life, without putting others at risk,” Flood said.  “That’s why removing barriers that might make it difficult for someone to stick to their treatment regimen is so important in reducing HIV infection.”

The expanding programming made possible by the grant also will enable Immune Health Services to serve as an individual’s primary care provider.

“Many referrals come to our clinic after an individual has received a positive test result for HIV from a local social service agency or perhaps the state of local health department, so there may not be a primary care physician involved in this individual’s care,” Flood said.

To make the care seamless, these individuals will now be able to seek primary care medical services from the clinic.  “We want these individuals to get into the habit of coming to the center for their routine care, since we are already coordinating their care for a chronic disease,” Flood said.  “This primary care component of the grant will go a long way to increasing adherence to treatment, and linking the patients to resources they may need.”

Immune Health Services treats about 1,000 individuals annually.

The name of the Designated AIDS Center was changed earlier this year to Immune Health Services to better reflect the scope of services it provides patients.

Caption: Kelley Flood, LMSW, Immune Health Services program director, will oversee the $1.5 million grant to Immune Health Services that will expand programming aimed at fostering greater adherence to treatment protocols for HIV-positive patients.

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