ActionAIDS teams up to improve client health

In an innovative project that will increase access to health care for our clients, ActionAIDS will team with the Family Practice and Counseling Network to provide health care at our West Philadelphia office, 3901 Market St. Starting in January, this project marks the first time in ActionAIDS’ history that health-care services are provided to clients on site at one of our offices.

“This project has a huge potential for improving the health of our clients,” said ActionAIDS executive director Kevin Burns, noting “there’s great potential for this project to be expanded in the coming months and years, which will mean a great deal in terms of improving client health.”

By co-locating this clinic site at the ActionAIDS West Office, health-care services will be provided by the Family Practice & Counseling Network (FPCN), thus ensuring that clinical staff have a high level of expertise and experience in treating our HIV-positive clients.

FPCN already provides HIV medical care at two of its health centers, the Health Annex and Abbottsford Falls. As a federally qualified health center, FPCN’s HIV services are integrated into the comprehensive medical, behavioral and social services it provides to more than 20,000 individuals across six sites in Philadelphia and York, Pa. FPCN is a program of Resources for Human Development, a comprehensive, nonprofit social-service organization with headquarters in Philadelphia. Founded in 1970, RHD currently oversees and supports more than 160 locally managed human-service programs in 14 states.

Clinic patients will be our uninsured or under-insured clients at high risk to being lost to care. In addition to being HIV-positive, our clients often face challenges from mental-health and addiction diagnoses and struggle to make ends meet. As is typical with our clients in general, roughly 80 percent have incomes under the Federal Poverty Level. Because of these issues, they tend to have difficulty engaging in medical care on a consistent basis with traditional, large institutional-care providers.

But by basing the clinic at our office, we can coordinate health-care services with our medical case-management services. We can streamline scheduling, reduce in-clinic waiting time and provide clinic services in a highly supportive setting that enhances the client’s experience, thus increasing rates of retention in HIV medical care.

ActionAIDS medical case-management staff will have frequent contact with clients to establish and maintain a close relationship with medical clinic staff. Medical case managers, in consultation with the medical staff, will assess client needs for care retention. The medical case manager and client can then develop an individualized care plan to address potential environmental and psychosocial barriers to care. Housing counseling and referrals, and volunteer-support services will also be available. ActionAIDS staff will facilitate concurrent “drop-in group” sessions during clinic hours. Food and beverages, as well as a variety of therapeutic activities, will provide an incentive for client participation in these voluntary sessions. Clients will be called out of group or individual session when clinic staff are available, and will be encouraged to return to the group session after their appointment, if they would like. Group sessions will feature brief presentations of interest to our clients, such as HIV treatment adherence, sexual-risk reduction or other client concerns. These sessions will be an opportunity for clients to engage in mutual support, which is highly effective in motivating HIV-treatment adherence.

The ActionAIDS West Office is the base from which we provide medical case-management services to clients in nearby Delaware County and West Philadelphia. The West Office is in an area of West Philly that includes eight census tracts identified by the Public Health Management Corporation as being high risk for HIV/AIDS based on demographic factors for HIV/AIDS and high HIV/AIDS rates — within the top 20 percent for Philadelphia.

This new collaboration with FPCN will directly advance the ActionAIDS mission of creating an AIDS-free generation. By increasing access to health care, and reducing the number of clients that drop out of care, we enhance and prolong the lives of thousands of our clients. By ensuring continuity of HIV medical care, we also reduce the development of drug-resistant HIV, decrease sexual-risk behaviors and, as our clients in treatment maintain low or non-detectible viral load, we reduce or eliminate the risk of HIV transmission to others. Because of programs like this one, the creation of an AIDS-free generation is not just a slogan, but can become a reality. 

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